For my first visit as a Young Reporter, I had the chance of visiting Sampier, a village that is nearly 80 km away from the town of Bandundu, and on this first trip I experienced some unforgettable moments.
In Sampier, the village focus group had put together a sketch talking about child marriage because, for them, this is a huge problem that plagues their village.
The discussion time was crucial to me as it helped me to more or less get to the bottom of the root causes of the problem. All the villagers recognised early marriage as a big dilemma for their village because most of the girls who marry underage end up divorcing and some suffer serious health or even development problems.
This led me to approach some of the young people of the village in order to get their opinion and I was able to have a conversation with “Yvonne”.
At seventeen years of age, she is one of the very few girls in the village who is still studying. She is in year 5 of teaching studies. For her, the main cause of early marriage is the absence of responsibility of parents who are not always available and spend most of their time in the fields.
The girls learn to take care of themselves at a very young age and so they can easily come across the wrong sort of people and fall pregnant.
“On top of that, tradition does not protect us. Our parents have total power over us to the point of ‘selling us’,” she says.
A few tears welled up in Yvonne’s eyes as she said these words, giving a glimpse of the pain she feels when her friends are married despite wishing to study, just like Yvonne.
“They’re not as lucky as I am,” she adds.
Her father, being the head teacher of the only school in the village, understood the importance of having a daughter who studied beyond family education.
The other problem raised by the parents concerned the lack of quality schools and educational materials.
Over and above all that, it turns out that the young girls are morally abused through the absence of responsibility of their parents and by tradition. Plus, there is a lack of adequate policies that enable all girls to go to school and have a quality education.
This is why I call on all parents to ensure the education of their children, girls and boys, and to protect their daughters from early marriage because Article 48 of the Child Protection Act forbids child engagements and marriages. This is strengthened by edict 001/2013 of 18th January 2013, articles 8 and 14, that define the punishment incurred by any person inciting a child to enter into an early and/or incestuous marriage.
Also, I recommend that our country’s authorities ensure strict enforcement of the law against persons charged with this crime.
Photo: UNICEF DRC/2010/Jill Connelly
Kindly translated from French by Daphne Wood
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Jean Paul est un Enfant Reporter du Bandundu. Agé de 11 ans, il étudie au collège Kivuvu en 1ère année secondaire. Plus tard, il aimerait devenir avocat pour défendre les droits des enfants. Il aime la lecture et faire des recherches sur des sujets qui le tiennent à cœur.
Jean Paul is a Young Reporter from Bandundu Province. Aged 11, he's a first year student at Kivuvu secondary school. He would like to become a lawyer to be able to defend children's rights. He enjoys reading and researching subjects that mean a lot to him.