Child marriage: Mulenga's story

May 12, 2017
By Agatha Mali; Edited by Leanna Cappiello

Mulenga* lived in extreme poverty with her single mother. She traveled regularly to her grandmother’s farm, collecting food and other needs to sustain her and her mom. On a usual walk to the farm, a man approached her, who claimed to be a family friend.

In her own words, Mulenga tells the story of her abduction:

“Like most Fridays, I was on my way to my grandmother’s farm to ask for some food, that was when I met Burner*. “He asked me to escort him to a nearby market, and since we all considered him to be a family friend and a cousin, I decided to escort him,” Mulenga explains.

“But then I realized that we kept on walking, and we were not reaching where we were going. I told him I wanted to go back home and that was when he threatened to stab me to death if I did not comply.” After leading Mulenga 30 kilometers away, Burner forced her to get on a bus and leave town with him.

“When we reached [his house] he introduced me to his grandmother as his cousin. The same night he insisted that I should sleep in his room… That night, he woke up, ripped my clothes off and raped me,” recalls Mulenga with tears in her eyes.

“I tried to scream but he covered my mouth though luckily his grandmother heard and she rushed to where we were sleeping to find out what was happened.”

His grandmother had suspicions, but nothing was done to protect Mulenga. She married Burner against her will. Three years later, Mulenga eventually grew accustomed to Burner’s abusive advances.

Life was bearable for a while, until Burner’s sisters began to abuse her as well. “… the moment his sisters came to the village, they started mistreating me. And when my husband came home, he used to scold me, and at times, hit me.” 

Mulenga hit her breaking point: “I couldn’t take it any longer because I was scared that they would kill me.”

Mulenga managed to escape one night and settled on a nearby village. She explained everything to the neighbours, who advised her to report the matter to the police. Unfortunately the police did not believe her story.

Two years later, Mulenga’s grandmother visited Mulenga’s mother (Judy*), hoping to see her granddaughter.

Judy was surprised, thinking Mulenga was with her grandmother.  They reported her daughter missing immediately, with the help of the village chief, Shimukunami, an advocate against early marriage.

After a long, grueling process, Berner was confronted and jailed, and the marriage was called off.  “I was very happy to see my daughter after three years,” says Judy with a smile on her face.

Judy took Mulenga to the doctor’s, and with the help of the cheif and World Vision child protection advocacy, Mulenga re-entered school.

“I am happy that I am back in school, I want to ensure that my dreams of becoming a nurse come true. Even though things become hard at times I will always work hard and achieve my goals,” says Mulenga.

*Names changed to protect identities

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