2013 VOF Week 3 Break the Cycle: More Access to Girls Education
What happens when a young girl age 12 is forced into marriage? Her right to education is ceased. This is the case of my 62year old mother who was force into marriage by her own father. This week I tried talking to her to see if she could throw more light as to what happened in my community some 50 years ago. My mother said the major reason why her father married her off to a man 15 years older than her. (my father) was because she was a girl and educating her was not his priority. ‘What is the essence of wasting money on somebody’s wife’? That’s the way her father viewed her at the age of 12- somebody’s wife. Her father question the reason for sending girls to school claiming that after being educated by their parents they carry their wealth to their husband’s homes.. Unfortunately, my father is no longer there for me to find why an educated man like him accepted to marry a young woman and refused to send her school despite the fact that my mother stayed in his house for 5 years before God could bless her with a baby.
That notwithstanding, I am fortunate to have a neighbor who is a retired military person who removed a girl a secondary school form two girl and married. Though my interview with him was a little difficult I tried getting some ideas behind the reasons for early marriages in my community.
Interviewer: Good morning Mr. Peter.
Mr Peter: Good Morning
Interviewer: Please can I know why you got married to a young women who was still in school and had a full life ahead of her
Mr. Peter: I wanted to help her parents because they were poor
Interviewer: Did the parents complain to you about their poverty
Mr. Peter: No, they did not. But when I propose the idea of marrying their daughter, they had no objection and readily gave her to me
Interviewer: Did you seek your to-be wife’s opinion before consulting her parents
Mr. Peter: Why should I seek her opinion? A woman has no voice in this matter.
This is an interview that took place on 19/ 04/ 2013. In this modern time, some men still believe that women have no right to a voice even in situations that concern them directly. Mr. Peter stands to reflect the way men view women in my community which is highly patriarchal.
I went further to talk to the wife and will like to summarize the reasons why her father decided to make her off without her concern. These are the so many barriers affecting girl’s education in Cameroon:
Poverty: Her parents thought Mr. Peter a civil servant has come to rescue their family. First, it was prestigious for them to marry her off to a “responsible man” whom they believe will solve all their financial problems
Threat: Though she did not love the man, her opinion did not count in this matter. The marriage has been sealed by her parents and she must abide to it. Her parents have already threatened to throw her out the house and disowned her if she refused to marry this “wonderful and God sent in-law”.
Cultural belief: Some communities believe that if a girl becomes pregnant in their home, the consequences of the sins she has committed is shared between her and her parents. So in order to avoid such punishment for a crime committed by their daughter, they will want to marry her off at a very young age
Polygamous Homes: Most families are polygamous, which forces the father to prioritize the education of his children. He will prefer to send boys to schools while he the girls are pushed into early marriages.
Teenage pregnancy: Some parents though poor may have realized the importance of education and thus work very hard to ensure that all their kids are educated. Un-fortunately some girls will be forced to drop out of school because of unwanted pregnancy which is not acceptable in Cameroonian schools.
How then can we break these barriers in order to have many more girls in schools?
Government should provide free education from primary to high school not only by removing fee but also providing school fee loans which can help students buy other academic needs
Cultural and traditional beliefs that hinder girl’s access to education should be abolished.
Parents especially mothers who were not given the opportunity to go to school should championed the fight to make sure that they send all their kids to school especially girls. They should have vocational training, make small businesses or work on their farms and sell some of their produce in other to raise capital to educate their female children if their husbands refuse to do so.