Not A Victim

Others, Stories , Women & Girls

Contributed by: Food for the Hungry Canada

Written by Erin Austin-Bergen

Suzan was a child bride.

Her parents struggled under the weight of poverty. They saw little purpose in educating a daughter who had no foreseeable opportunities beyond marriage, children, and a life of hard work. Besides, they needed the cattle Suzan’s future husband would gift them with when he married her.

“Even when I wanted to go to school, my parents did not see sense in educating a girl child like me because that would mean denying them cows that they would earn from the dowry,” Suzan explains. “Marrying another school dropout was never my dream, but culture dictated upon my priorities.”

Suzan was married against her will when she should have been in school.

For the past 10 years, FH has engaged women and men in Marare who, like Suzan, either had no chance of accessing formal education or attended lower primary school and dropped out because of poverty and uneducated parents.

In 2014, FH acquired four sewing machines to train women who had been denied a formal education and equip them to earn a living and lift their families out of poverty. Suzan embraced this opportunity with enthusiasm. She chose crocheting and tailoring. With a passion to learn new things, she quickly picked up the skills. She also took advantage of FH’s adult literacy class. This child bride can finally read and write.

At 32 years of age, Suzan is now one of the most successful women in Marare. She rents a small building where she sews and sells clothes and other crafts she and her apprentices create. With her income, she plans to construct a bigger store.

In addition to her sewing business, Suzan contracts with FH as a women’s vocational trainer, and volunteers her hours to teach teenage girls who drop out of school for personal reasons or are unable to pursue their education because of a difficult home environment – free of charge. It’s her way of giving back to her community. “With the influx of school children on the training grounds, I now feel I am an employed teacher because they keep me busy and proud of my work,” Suzan laughs.

Suzan and her three children

Suzan is happy with her progress. “My husband now respects me fully because I am equally making and saving money that is contributing to improving our home situation and general living,” she shares. Suzan hopes to acquire her own plot of land and build a brick home for their family in the next two years. “I do not want to sit home and only wait for my husband to bring bread home,” Suzan shares her independent spirit.

After everything she’s been through – robbed of her education, married too young, living in poverty – she continues to seize opportunities, take control of her circumstances, and change her life for the better. Suzan is fighting poverty, and winning.

Child marriage happens when parents struggle under the weight of poverty and are forced to make the tough choice to marry off their child. By sponsoring children in these communities, you can keep girls motivated to stay in school, and can help alleviate the poverty that causes parents to consider child marriage as an option.