Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

I was to be married at 13

My name is Grace. I am 22 years old. I am a sponsored child. I live in Zambia with my mother.

I did not know my father because he died when I was still young.

When I was a child I liked to play netball and skipping. I used to fear snakes and other wild animals.

I loved school. My favourite subjects were maths, science and geography. I loved playing with friends.

When I was young I dreamed of becoming a doctor.

After Grade 7 I asked my family for the money for my school tuition. My brothers told me they had no money, and that I would be married off soon. My mother was sick.

I wanted so badly to go to school, and instead I was to be sold for money to be a wife. A man came and paid a bride price to take me home. I did not know anything about marriage or what work would be involved.

I was surprised when the man came to pay a bride price. I was upset and wondered why he had come when I still wanted to go to school.

My heart sank.

Grace was about to start Grade 8 when she found out a man had paid a bride price to marry her.

It happened at the time I had just got into Grade 8 at a boarding school. I was 13 years old. My friends whom I had finished Grade 7 with were surprised that I was getting married instead of going to school.

ChildFund intervened when teachers reported that I had not started Grade 8. There was a bridal shower and ChildFund showed up to it along with the police. They said a child should be in school, and they put a stop to the marriage. Then ChildFund helped me go back to school.

My mother and brothers were punished by the courts for trying to marry me off. At the court I was asked to choose the school where I wanted to go to, and after a week they said the case would be passed on to the Chieftainess (village leader). The Chieftainess helped me get into a boarding school.

After finishing high school I studied catering – baking cakes and cooking meals. I hope to open my own restaurant soon. I want to open up a restaurant. After seeing what I have gone through, people in my community now see how education is good. Families have learnt that if their children get an education, they will benefit. They know that if their children are able to get a job their lives get better, so they encourage that children should not get married but remain in school.

Community leaders now use my story as an example. If I didn’t go back to school I would be suffering now.

Thank you to ChildFund for helping me get back to school and supporting me to complete the catering course. Had it not been for ChildFund supporters, I would continue to live in poverty.

ChildFund local partner staff Ephraim (left) with Grace’s mother Margaret, and Grace and her son.

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