My dream was to become a doctor, but that all came to an end

child marriages in Kinshasa

“My dream was to become a doctor, but that all came to an end” admits Judith, a young mother who lives in the Nsele commune, in the east of Kinshasa. When she was 17, she fell pregnant and was forced to give up her studies.

Today, Judith is 20. “Everything became difficult for me because I gave up my studies. Go back to school? Impossible, I’ll never be able to again!” 

Judith no longer goes to school, doesn’t work and is stuck at home. The young mother warns girls in her neighbourhood against marrying young.

“Getting married too young is not a good thing to do. When you enter into a marriage too early, you don’t understand anything at all. You are going to discover things that you didn’t know and you will have to look after the household without having the

means to do so.”

Judith’s situation is not an isolated case

One woman in the neighbourhood says that “some girls are married officially, whilst others fall pregnant. To hide their shame, the parents cover it up trying to pass it off as a real, consensual marriage, when in reality it’s not. A young girl falls pregnant and the parents deliver her to the man.”

Many girls in the Nsele commune have had the same experience as Judith. Madame Béatrice, who lives in the neighbourhood, tells us; “that’s how my maternal aunt married off her daughter at 14 years old. Now this girl is 28 and is already the mother of 5 children. It’s awful! How many children will she have by the time she’s 30 or 35?”

The fight against child marriages is mobilizing in Kinshasa

Child marriage is a reality in the city of Kinshasa, as it is in numerous parts of the country. To put an end to this plague, heads of churches and spiritual chiefs are encouraged to renounce holding marriages for children under the age of 18. For a year, LIZADEEL (Ligue de la Zone Afrique pour la défense des droits des enfants et des élèves), an organisation supported by UNICEF, has led initiatives in 6 communes of Kinshasa.

The chief bishop in Kinshasa city, pastor Kapafule, states that “bishops of the Revival Churches in the Congo have annulled 44 child marriages and we have identified 3,640 churches in which we can pass on our message”. But efforts still need to be made, since many child marriages are carried out clandestinely.

Women and men, making progress together

Despite being written into the Constitution, gender equality in the Democratic Republic of Congo often does not translate into reality. Congolese women and young girls suffer numerous forms of discrimination and are victims of gender-based violence. The root causes of this violence originate in traditional practices, and the persistence of inequality and respective opportunities available for men and women.

Through the programme “Women and men, progressing together”, UNICEF and the Minister of Gender, family affairs and children, financed by the European Union, wish to take action against all gender-based violence and its root causes.

Translated from French by Amber Sherman

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Douglas David

Depuis 2009, Douglas, cinéaste, a participé à de plusieurs projets mis en place par l’UNICEF et a formé de nombreux Enfants-Reporters. Au delà de la passion, l’image est pour lui un moyen efficace de dire au-delà des mots!

Since 2009, Douglas, filmmaker, has participated in several UNICEF projects and has trained many Child-Reporters . Beyond his passion, he finds that the image is the perfect way to say what words cannot!

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