"We demand ownership of our bodies"

By Leovigildo Pedro; edited by Katie Hackett

​“Dear mom and dad, we are very much aware of the tough society that we are living in,” says Cátia. “As girl children we must remind you that marrying us off shouldn’t even be a solution to consider.”

The 16-year-old is addressing the crowd at a national conference for girls in Mozambique.
“As girl children we face a number of challenges,” she continues. “Out there we have to hide from those that seek to do us harm, it wouldn’t be fair to do same at home.”

The conference brought several organizations together—including World Vision—to address the issue of early marriage, hoping to see Mozambique transition off the list of top ten countries worldwide with the highest number of early marriages.
 
“Not even our bodies belong to us. They belong to our parents who decide when it’s time for our bodies to mother a child,” Cátia continues her speech, adding, adding, “We demand change now,” as the girls in attendance cheer.

During the conference, two girls share their experience with a new World Vision project that is promoting girls’ well-being through savings groups.

“We have a group composed of nearly 20 teenagers,” says Nilza, 16. “We get together and save. Whoever wants can borrow some money to invest, I myself borrowed some and I bought airtime and popcorns to resell. With the profits I cover my school expenses and I take care of myself.”
 
The idea is that, by giving teen girls the ability to earn money, they might alleviate the financial burden for their parents and decrease their chances of being pushed to marry early.
While learning to save, the girls are also encouraged to continue with their studies and avoid early pregnancies.
 
The two day conference ends with a declaration by organizations, including World Vision, to advocate to the government for better protection for Mozambique’s girls. That means eliminating sexual harassment by teachers, educating communities on reproductive health and ensuring girls’ decisions are respected within their own families.

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