“Good evening, ma’am. I hope Papa Amadi is at home?”
“Let me check. He was around a moment ago.”
“Pardon me, my husband. Barbara’s teacher is here. I have asked her to wait in the parlour while I check whether or not you are at home. Do you want to see her?”
“What does she want? She had never come to see me at home before. I’m coming to see her.”
“I very much appreciate your finding time to receive me, sir,” Brenda Gibson said.
“My pleasure. Please sit down.”
“Chioma, send Barbara to buy some soft drink for her teacher.”
“Don’t bother, sir. Thank you, anyway.”
“This is your first visit to my house. Our custom demands that I welcome you properly.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“To what do we owe this visit?”
“I have come to find out why you want to give Barbara out to marriage at this tender age instead of allowing her to complete her education?”
“I don’t believe in educating girls. It is a waste of money. Girls just need to be taught to cook, sew and care for children and their husbands; and they can learn those things right at home.”
Brenda Gibson was aghast. “The need to support and empower the girl child so that she can meet growing challenges of our time is very germane at this time. Education is universally acknowledged as the vehicle of development in any society. No nation is known to have developed without quantitative and qualitative education for her citizens irrespective of gender.”
“Education is for men not women. Women are here on earth for one reason only. To make men happy.”
“That’s not correct, sir. Education is meant for both sexes. A girl child should go to a proper school where she will acquire knowledge. Gender does not determine one’s ability to achieve. A child has a right to education whether a boy or a girl.”
“Then after educating her she will marry into another family and change her name. What will be my benefit? I’d better train my male children who will perpetuate the name of my family after I am gone.”
“Barbara is the brightest child we’ve ever had in the school, where there are many boys. She is the kind of child every teacher dreams of having just once throughout her career. Nowadays, there are many countries ruled by women: President of Philippines is Gloria Arroyo, German Chancellor is Angela Merkel, New Zealand Prime Minister is Helen Clark, Julian Gillard is the Prime Minister of Australia, Park Geun-hye is the President of South Korea and even in Africa, the President of Liberia is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Joyce Banda is the President of Malawi. So training your girl child is not a wasteful venture.”
“It’s too late. I’ve given Barbara’s hand in marriage to Igwe. And the marriage date has been fixed.”
“Do you think that’s the best course of action?”
“I don’t believe there is a better one. She has to get married before she is defiled or maybe infected with sexually transmitted disease (STD), and the worse being AIDS.”
“From the medical point of view, the girl child deserves education because the girl is the mother of a nation and it reduces the incidence of maternal mortality because if the girl is educated, she will be able to take care of herself and will be aware of the best way to bring up her child. There are high-risk pregnancies associated with teenage pregnancies which often led to maternal mortality.”
“Forget about all that big English. People have been marrying minors and they have been delivering children without what you call maternal mortality. So say something else.”
“One of the goals of the Millennium Development Goals is gender equality and empowerment of women. Marriage between man and woman should be an equal partnership. How can that be possible between a fourteen year old girl and forty four year old man?”
“God possesses ultimate power in the universe, before which everyone bows down; the equivalent power in the home is the man. He can never be in any equal partnership with any woman. Even if she is a President.”
“How far have you gone with persuading your daughter to marry me?” His Royal Highness, Chief Ike Ochendo asked Amadi Jones.
“Persuade? I’ve given her a good hiding she won’t forget soon and she has agreed to marry you. You know how it is with children of nowadays. They don’t know how to behave.”
“Very well. I only want the relationship between us to be tighter. Take this envelope and use what is inside to enjoy yourself. I shall send another before the marriage ceremony through one of my palace servants.”
“All these money for me?”
“That is small. There are more from where this one comes from. Just ensure that your daughter marries me and you’re through with poverty.”
“Consider it done.”
“Something needs to be done to arrest child marriage in our society,” Barbara complained to her teacher the following day she arrived to the school.
“Education is the most important key to helping end the practice of child marriage and forced marriage,” Brenda Gibson her teacher emphasized.
“You mean there is difference between child marriage and forced marriage?”
“Child marriage refers to any marriage of a child younger than 18 years old, in accordance to article 1 of the convention on the Rights of a Child. While forced marriage is defined as a marriage conducted without the valid consent of one or both parties and is a marriage in which duress –whether physical or emotional is a factor,” Brenda Gibson explained.
“Are boys also subjected to early marriage?”
“Yes. While child marriages affect both sexes, girls are disproportionately affected as they are the majority of the victims. Their overall development is compromised, leaving them socially isolated with little education, skills and opportunities for employment and self-realization.”
“Child marriage is unfair treatment by our parents.”
“You’re right. Child marriage is now widely recognized as a violation of children’s rights, a direct form of discrimination against the girl child who as a result of the practice is often deprived of her basic rights to health, education, development and equality. Tradition, religion and poverty continue to fuel the practice of child marriage, despite its strong association with adverse reproductive health outcomes and the lack of education of girls.”
“Government should ban child marriage. Imagine forcing me to marry a man that is thirty years older than me.”
“Many believe that education may prove to be more successful in preventing child marriage than banning child marriage. The education of the parents is just as important as education of the children. Education will broaden their horizons and will help convince them of the benefits in having their children educated. Girl child’s education is the key to end poverty.”