“Help me to live in a country that respects my rights”

My name is Merveille I’m a Young-Reporter from Kinshasa, I am 17 years old.

I participated in a dissemination workshop about child marriage held in Kinshasa in October. In this workshop we the children of the DRC developed an action plan. This planned advocacy visits to the Mayors of eight municipalities where there is a high rate of child marriage in the city of Kinshasa; I quote: Bumbu, Selembao, Mont Kafula, Makala, Kinseso, N’Djili, Masina and Kimbaseke.

UNICEF, the Ministry of Women, Family and children, and our supervisors joined us on this advocacy tour, which was held from August 10 to August 22, 2015.

Child Marriage is a practice that goes against Child’s Rights under Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates that the State shall protect the child against any “neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse”. I believe that child marriage is caused by poverty, lack of education, customs and religious traditions. Marriage has adverse consequences in the life of the child, there can be trauma, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, and complications during pregnancies even death. But especially what is put at risk is the capacity of a child to continue his education. All this hampers the future of the child, sacrificing his future.

During our advocacy tour we discovered that some local authorities ignore legal instruments that protect Child Rights, and they evoke financial difficulties as an obstacle to effectively fight against child marriage.

We did manage to ensure each Mayor’s commitment to partner with us in the fight against child marriage in their respective municipalities. We attended at the invitation of the mayor of Kimbaseke a conference organized by the youth of his town. It was an opportunity for the authorities of the municipality to pass their message against child marriage. We took the floor to speak on behalf of all Congolese children on the evils of child marriage and invited all young people of the town and the general public, to partner with us to change behaviours regarding child marriage. The mayors of Kinsenso and Bumbu also invited us.

Given how abundant the practice of child marriage is in our country, the DRC, we:

    1. Encourage all, girl and boys, to refuse and denounce child marriage, and to finish their studies because that is the pillar of our worth;
    2. Call on parents and relatives to accept that no pretext is valid when marrying their children. That even in front of complicated life situations, it will always be better to send their child to school because it is by studying that one will be able to be useful to our families and to society.
    3. Encourage UNICEF in its support to the DRC in stopping child marriage, particularly protecting girls who are generally the main victims, and in providing resources to fight against this practice throughout the DRC;
    4. We ask the government to popularize knowledge of the legal instruments protecting Child Rights, and to strengthen the laws and sanctions reserved for those stimulating child marriage. Children from 12 to 17 needs to be at school not married. Therefore, we support the message of our friend Bora, a Child-Reporter Katanga:

“We want books, not husbands”

With that, I address this message to our government “Help me, a young Congolese girl, to live in a country that respects my rights, by sending me to school and ending Child Marriage”.

Image: UNICEF RDCongo/ Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

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Merveille a 17 ans et elle étudie en première année à l’Institut Supérieur Pédagogique de la Gombe à Kinshasa. Après plusieurs années d'expériences d’enfant reporter, Merveille s'est lancée dans des études d'histoire, sciences sociales et gestion politique. Son but est de défendre les droits de ses pairs et de venir en aide. Selon elle, “il ne faut pas se limiter au rôle d’enfant reporter mais poursuivre cet engagement pour les enfants dans la vie d’adulte”.

Merveille is 17 years old and is in her first year of university in Kinshasa. After a few years of experience as Child Reporter, Merveille has decided to study History, Social Sciences and Political Management. Her goal is to defend her peers' rights and help. Merveille believes: ‘One must not restrict oneself to the role of being a child reporter, but continue this commitment for children into adult life.’

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