Malawi schoolgirl who escaped child marriage tells the other side of her story

At the age of 14, a young girl from the area of traditional Authority Katuli in Mangochi, Jennifer Sanni had already spent two years in marriage. She had been married to a business man twice her age. Reflecting on how she got into the trap, the girl says she was very happy and quite excited about the prospects of a married life and she thought that was the only exit door to the bondage of poverty.

Jennifer Sanning riding a bike to school
Jennifer Sanni pose outside the White House in US
Jennifer Sanni meets US Senator for Georgia in Washington DC
Jennifer Sanni: Role Model

Few days before their wedding the man had told Jennifer that he already had a wife and a child. The sad news did not dampen the spirit of determination for Jennifer’s thirsty to have a ring on her finger. She thought that the new found love would compel the husband to divorce with the first wife.

Speaking in an interview Jennifer described her wedding as exciting and mouthwatering that every woman would desire.

“I dropped out of school and planned the wedding myself. It was beautiful. Relatives from both sides agreed that we should marry. My husband gave me gifts and called me romantic names, which I loved,” recalls Jennifer.

Eventually, with the passing of time, storms started on the sea, hell broke loose as reality started to sink in for the newlywed family. The nice and charming man turned into a monster. The first wife, who was also pregnant by then, joined the band wagon and kept abusing her at every moment.

Jennifer added “My husband failed to support me, as he had agreed. He also failed to divorce his first wife who would verbally abuse me, calling me a prostitute, a bar girl and other bad names to make me feel bad for snatching her husband. I felt angry and uncomfortable. In the first days, my husband protected me, but this didn’t last long. He gave up and started mistreating me”.

An open day campaign in the vicinity of her neighbourhood organized by the Malawi Girl Guides Association changed Jennifer’s life for good. She had the opportunity to interact with some girls who had dropped out of school but they returned to school to pursue their studies. After sharing several experiences, Jennifer got convinced and decided to jump out from the marriage trap and start chasing her dreams.

“I thank Malawi Girl Guides Association for opening my eyes; It was exciting and a dream come true when I walked back to school. From that day I focused on my studies to achieve my goals. To ease my mobility  to and from school, Malawi Girl Guides Association provided me and some friends with a bicycle each with support from the United Nations Population Fund under a project called Joint Program on Adolescent Girls (JPAG)” says Jennifer.

Her decision to get back to school was awesome but it got sour as fellow learners had to call her sorts of names.

“Despite facing challenges when I went back to school, I had an opportunity to travel to Washington DC where among others I shared my story during ‘the Girl up Leadership Summit’, aimed at keeping girls in school which was facilitated by the United Nations Population Fund.

This was my chance to share my story in front of more people. I felt powerful travelling abroad. It motivated me. It was a privilege that extremely inspired me,” recounts Jennifer.

After passing difficult stages in her life, Jennifer is now a role model to different young girls across the country; actually she is a practical example.

“I spoke out and I was helped, now am assisting other girls. I advocate for women’s rights, I am empowered to speak for myself and defend other girls. As we approach the 16 days of activism, let’s speak out against gender based violence in workplaces and in schools, our voice should be heard.

“For far too long, impunity, silence and stigma have allowed violence against women to escalate to pandemic proportions. Let’s break the silence, together we are stronger”, said Jennifer.

Now 21, Jennifer dreams of becoming a nurse to ably serve the Malawi population.

National Coordinator for Malawi Girl Guides Mphatso Baluwa says as an organization, they believe that education is a key to success and that helping adolescent girls and young women to have access education is not a waste of resources but rather an investment.

“Our vision and desire is to reach out to many girls and young women and help them realize their potential”.

She also emphasized that giving access to education for women and girls is not only a moral duty but also a fundamental step to improve the country’s development.

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3 years ago

These young girls who snatch other women’s husbands do not deserve sympathy. They are greedy, selfish, and stupid, and they deserve the consequences of their thoughtless life-choices. How does she expect the first wife to react? With open arms? Give me a break! And as for the two-timing dog she married! With her limited experience, why was she so confident as to believe he wouldn’t turn out to be a three or four-timing dog?

These girls need to be educated before they make these stupid mistakes, not after. Mothers, aunts, and grandmothers – wake up and do your jobs.

3 years ago


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