By Antonio Simão Matimbe; Edited by Katie Hackett
The day had started out normally, but a visitor to 14-year-old Belita’s home changed everything.
“This man comes to my house to ask my parents to marry me,” she recalls. “They accepted. I did not take it seriously at the moment.”
Early marriage is very common in Mozambique. In fact, the country is currently ranked 11th in the world for child marriage. So Belita was resigned to her fate, until she crossed paths with members from her school’s Child Parliament.
“I learned a lot of things about children´s rights and the consequences of early marriage that day,” she says. She went home to talk to her parents, but she couldn’t change their minds. She would be married no matter what it took.
After learning about Belita’s situation, members from the Child Parliament took her case to World Vision staff and their school council.
“This, of course, was something that concerned us,” says Daniel, the school principal. “We immediately called Belita’s parents and the man who was supposed to marry her along with his family to my office. We discussed the issue, showing them how harmful this could be to the child.”
Fortunately, both families were receptive to the message and agreed that Belita would not be married. To ensure this would not happen, everyone signed a declaration acknowledging that if, for any reason, Belita was married before the age of 18, charges would be laid by the police.
Now Belita has one goal at least before she turns 18: “All I want is to keep studying to become a teacher,” she says with purpose.
And today, she’s taken up the cause against early marriage by joining the Child Parliament herself.
“I would not attain this dream,” she says, “if it was not for that meeting with the Child Parliament.”
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