Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A story of a 12 year old bride: exclusion from education in favor of domestic work

To illustrate the reality of child marriage in Roma communities in Albania, we would like you to read about one of the young girls who attends the Reflect circle : last weekend, in the evening after one of our regular reflect classes in Fushe Kruja, this assumed child of only 12 years was married.
She has been dating her husband for 2 years, so she was around 10 years old when they met.
At the beginning of our Reflect classes, she was very happy to have this opportunity to learn how to read and write, giving her new perspectives for her future life. She is a very fragile young girl and she has been coming to our meetings since we opened the project. She is one of the best students we have and that is why we really want to encourage her to continue her studies. During discussions in class we have talked about marrying young and the negative effects of such decisions and she has always participated and listened carefully.
The wedding was celebrated anyway. After that, she could not come to our reflect classes anymore as she has now a full range of new responsibilities as a wife. Deprived of this chance to learn to read and write diminishes her employment opportunities that she was hoping to have and now her only perspectives left are as a domestic worker or selling second hand clothing in the streets.
Many of the other girls and young women attending the Reflect circle discussed this marriage, and they realized that their friend has lost her chance to attend classes after the wedding. It shows that the Working Together group, and education in general, are key in changing deep-seated cultural traditions such as child marriage. Working towards the elimination of such a practice is not easy in a community like the one in Fushe Krujë because it is so widely accepted, the girls entering into marriage are not always pressured to do so. They simply fall in love.
However, the perpetuation of this cultural practice is an obstacle for the empowerment of women and therefore to the emancipation of the community because access to education is limited for married girls as they have to take care of their house first.
This story vividly highlights the most immediate negative effect of young girls getting married: exclusion from education in favor of domestic work.
But we decided not to give up on her. We were lucky enough to find her mother-in-law, who was also a student of our school, and talk to about how important it is for this girl to return to our courses even though she is a new bride. Her mother-in-law listened to us and as she trusts us because she sees the opportunity that this school provides these girls and young women. Thus she allowed this new bride to return to classes.
The n
ext day the newly wed, well dressed and with some make up on her young face, was sitting among her friends waiting for class to start. We welcomed her and started class normally.
The young Roma women from Fushe Kruja will probably keep getting married at a young age, even though we managed to bring this 12 year old bride back to classes. But we want them to understand and remember for their kids that it is important to "let children be children". We need to keep addressing women's needs and focus on children's and women's rights.

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