Broken Childhood

These children have a right to being children

By Nargis Shirazi

I am a woman, when I think I should actually be a girl! I am 15 and I just had a baby last night. I live right next to a school that reminds me of when I was in a school, until I fell pregnant. I did not sleep last night, the baby was crying. I almost died last night! The traditional birth attendant said I was too small. I am alone; my mother lives in another village. I do not know how to handle this baby. My 40 year old drunken husband is asleep from a night out at the village bar. He heard the baby cry at night, and wondered if it was ours. I am crying…I know not anything else I can do. I look out of the broken window and see the school children again. I wish I could still play dodge ball like they do, but I cannot. I had to be given to this man, to bail my family out of poverty. We were 13 in our home and stricken by poverty. I rescued my siblings only to end up in these chains! I had no choice. My mother told me she wanted to have less children…she had no choice…and neither will I.

This may sound like any other story to you…but is more than a story to others, it is a reality. Child marriage most often occurs in poor, rural communities. In many regions, parents arrange their daughter’s marriage. That can mean that one day, she may be at home playing with her siblings, and the next, she’s married off and sent to live in another village with her husband and his family. She is pulled out of school. She is separated from her peers. And once married, she is more likely to be a victim of domestic violence and suffer health complications associated with early sexual activity and childbearing- International Center for Research on Women.  In Uganda more than 4 out of 10 women wish to access modern contraception but cannot. There is an unmet need for family planning. Family Planning alone would reduce the country’s maternal mortality ratio by 33%.Uganda has one of the highest teenage pregnancies in Africa (one of every four pregnancies occurs in a teenager.) By 15 years of age, 24% of girls and 10% of boys are sexually active (debut 16.6 for girls and 18.1 for boys). Yet only 11% of sexually active young people are using contraception-The Citizen Journalist, July 16, 2012.

We need voices to rise up against the girl child early marriages! The time to stand up and speak about access to family planning is now! Let us come together, let us be the voices that need to be heard!

Girls have a right to prepare for their future.

 Nargis Shirazi is Community Based Quality Improvment Coordinator at UNOPS/MVP in Mbarara Ruhiira, Uganda. You can connect with her on twitter, or via email at

For more on child marriage, see campaign website for Girls Not Brides

For More on the MVP (Millenium Villages Project), please click here