By Mpho Mpofu
I was born in the beautiful continent of Africa, l could see the beauty of the sun rise and set each day. Life was wonderful when l was a baby but as l grew, l began to feel the scorching heat of the African sun and the pains that surround the girl child. l would look up and with determination in my eyes, soar high like an eagle for the brighter day that l was anticipating.
All the suffering that l went through today l fight them to make my daughter’s life enjoyable and free. Free from all the suffering and pain that l went through. As l lift my daughter up I’ve made a promise to her that as she grows to see, she will only see and taste the Beauty of Africa, peace joy and freedom that every men and women will share equally. Today as l tell this story l believe my daughter will tell a different story for Africa would have changed, Africa would have accepted the girl child. This is my story and a fight for the African girl child.
When l was eight l started to make sense of the world, though l was young l looked up and always believed in myself to be the great person that l wanted to become. Unfortunately that is not how the world saw me. The world saw me as a weak girl growing up to belong in the kitchen and look after the house. This world wanted me to be dumb and speak only when asked and never stand up for myself for l was a girl child. This is really not what l had in mind, l was outspoken and to me the sky was the limit, what the world turned me into was really not me. However, the world gave me something that no one could have given to me, in every pain and suffering it gave me God who l called unto for courage.
As the years went by life became even tougher, my father changed colors like a chameleon, he became a monster that l could not describe. Instead of protecting me from the enemy, he became the enemy. I silently endured the pains of rape, l wished it could have been a stranger and not my father for l had trusted him to protect me. In pain l confined my mother who shunned me in fear of him, but slowly began to protect me like any mother would. At the age of 15 l was handed over to my father’s friend as a bride in an arrangement that my father only knew about. I could cook, clean but l was not ready to be a wife, my life had been stolen by the people who were meant to protect me. Tears streamed down my mother’s cheeks as she waved goodbye. In tears l looked up and declared a different future for myself. I had been denied my right to education and had been married as a child, but hope kept me going.
The man l was married to would treat me more of a slave than a wife not that l knew how a wife was to be treated for l was still young. I was only old enough to be his daughter and not his wife. All l could ask myself and God was, “what has this world become”. My mother consoled me by making me aware that l was not the only girl married at such age. The fact that a lot of young girls were handed over as young girls didn’t make it right and neither did it help my situation. In everything God gave me light and l began to know how to read and write from the boys that were going to school. Night time when all fell asleep, l would rise and read and no one knew of my secret. I silently fought inequality and for my rights. To my surprise my brothers back home were going to school and had not been forced into any marriage. Hell broke loose when my husband found me reading at night, he beat me hard and made me promise l would stop studying. He had realized that studying would be the end of my slavery to him and education would shed light to my eyes and enable me to fight the injustices that l had been living under. I stood and chose to endure all the beatings in an attempt to further my understanding and rights. I was determined to put an end to my suffering and that of my child for l was now pregnant. Time came when l wanted to give up but as l looked at my bulging tummy all l could see was a girl who would suffer if l don’t stand up.
My mother had been silenced by the world that all she could do was endure her suffering and only weep to my suffering. I chose to fight and my pregnancy gave me hope and courage. The community looked at me and shunned me, my actions were taboo for wanting to study, l was only a girl and belonged in the kitchen. Girls with the opportunity to learn l encouraged them to give it their best shot and focus only at building a future for themselves for it was in their capability, education is the key that’s all l could afford to give them. My husband was never faithful and always refused to use condoms, this was another right that he took from me because l could not make a decision concerning my health. He soon infected me with HIV and that was another scar l endured as a girl child. I never lost hope but carried on with treatment for both me and my unborn baby. I could not take it anymore and at my father’s passing l went back home to my mother.
I walked away from years of suffering and violence in my marriage, enough was enough and it was time for me to take stand in my life. I began to sell vegetables during the day and attend night school and with more determination read even harder. Time came that l had to give birth to a beautiful baby girl and l wept in joy. I lifted her up and promised her a better future to that l had. A life of freedom, love and protection and a life of equality between men and women. I fought for her life and would encourage the world to fight for not only her life but for the life of every African girl child. Today l fight inequality against the girl child and l believe we are as much capable as the girl child. I stand again to fight child marriage, to my parents as you are giving me away as a young bride you are destroying my future. To you who is welcoming me in your house as a young bride, are you not ashamed of your actions for l am old enough to be your own daughter. I have the future and possibility to change the world, do not robe me of that opportunity in life because l am a girl child.
I fought domestic violence and my whole body has scars, these l take pride in for they are a sign that l have fought on and conquered all the injustices that l faced as a girl child. My fighting on should not go to waste, lets stand together and fight domestic violence inequality and child marriage. Today l pledge the world to take on the injustices faced by the girl child and together we can ensure that they have the future and life that they deserve.