Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation
Fatima*, a schoolteacher from Zamfara’s local government area of Bungudu in Nigeria, has a story involving one of the young schoolgirls in her classroom.
She was invited to the WELDD workshops through BAOBAB, and ever since, has been advocating for the eradication of child marriage in her school and wider community.
“I work as a teacher in the Government Secondary School in Bungudu, and the story I have is from near the end of term, when everyone was handing in their examinations.”
“Binta* is a 15-year-old from Awala village, a bright student who is always willing to learn. As I said, we were near the end of term and all the students’ final examinations were nearing. One day, she stopped appearing from classes; after investigating from her friends and classmates, I learned that her parents were insisting on marrying her out before the examination. I sought out Binta* and asked her about it, and she confirmed.
“This was not something I wanted to see happen in my classroom, and I knew I had to take action of some sort. I went ahead and involved the principle of the college, who wholeheartedly agreed to join me in confronting the parents. We called in the father, and to our surprise, he was on our side! He said that he was more than happy to allow his daughter to continue studying—the pressure, he said, was coming from his own mother. The poor girl’s grandmother was the one putting all this stress. So, of course, we asked to see the grandmother, and that’s where we hit a speed-bump.
“After extensive discussions with her, she would not budge on her opinion. So, we brought the village head into the situation, who then invited both the father and grandmother to his own house. It was warming to see these authority figures get as involved as they did, and I think it is precisely this that made all the difference.
The village head told the concerned family that if they continue with their plans, he would involve the government to take legal action against them.
Of course, that did the trick. The grandmother then accepted our demands, and agreed to let the girl finish school and submit her examinations before getting married. The village head specifically asked us teachers to monitor this—if she was not coming to school, the matter was to be immediately reported to him.”
Now, Fatima* says, the girl has handed in her examination, and finished her schooling!
Since her experience with WELDD, Fatima* has realized the need for further training on the topic especially to traditional and religious leaders as they are the ones able to mobilize community members. In rural areas, she says, there is such inadequate information and awareness among people, and there is such a need for training of an advocate who would be willing to take these messages to all the nooks and crannies of various communities.
“This story is particularly significant to me because I feel I made such a positive contribution to the girl’s life. It was because of my actions that she was not married off at the absurdly early age of fifteen.”
*Name changed for the sake of privacy.