Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

When families in the world’s poorest places run out of options, children are especially vulnerable. Exploitation, trafficking and child marriage are among the dangers they face.

That was true for Patricia (pictured above), a teen from Zambia who dreamed of a happier life. “My parents had no reliable source of income, and most of the time we would go to bed without eating anything,” she says.

So when the older man whom she was dating said he would marry her and they would have a good life together, she thought her dreams might finally have a chance of coming true.

Her boyfriend promised her gifts. He promised her money so she could buy the foods she longed to eat, such as fritters and sweets. Hungry and with almost nothing to call her own, Patricia was desperate to believe him.

That was how, at the age of 15, Patricia became a child bride.

She was taken from the safety of home, isolated from her friends, and cut off from school.

“He said I would be very happy as his wife,” Patricia says.

“Living with my husband at his grandmother’s place was my worst nightmare.

“He stopped giving me money for food and told me to help his grandmother till the land, draw water and grow maize for us to eat … I missed playing ball games with my friends.

“I was never allowed to go anywhere, including school, as I was now a married woman.”

While child marriage is against the law in Zambia, parents and children are often unaware they are protected, or they feel they don’t have other options.

The country has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with 31% of women aged 20 to 24 years married off by the age of 18, according to UNICEF.

Key contributing factors include poverty and girls’ lack of access to education. The United Nations Population Fund found that girls living in rural areas of the developing world are twice as likely to be married before the age of 18 as their urban counterparts, and girls with no education are over three times more likely to do so than those with secondary or higher education.

ChildFund Zambia is helping protect vulnerable girls by educating families and communities about the dangers of child marriage and financially supporting children to continue their education.

Life in rural Zambia is harsh.

In the communities where ChildFund works, many families battle in sweltering heat, with meagre subsistence farming as their only hope of making ends meet.

But, several years ago, a Gifts for Good donor chose to give the gift of a goat to a child in Zambia.

Twelve year old Justina and her family were some of the first to receive goats in the area, and today they’re still reaping the benefits of a gift given years ago.

How Donating a Goat Can Help Children

As orphaned children cared for by their elderly grandparents, Justina and her siblings might have been some of the most vulnerable members of their community in Zambia.  Instead, they are now some of the most prosperous.

“I’ve been surprised,” Justina’s grandmother Margaret told us. “I didn’t expect the situation to change the way it has so dramatically.

“Before I received the goats I felt so bad because I could not provide for my grandchildren.  I had no food to give them.  Life was not good.”

How Gifting a Goat Benefits a Family