Habiba; Former child bride recounts heart-wrenching experience

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Habiba, a child bride at 14 now advocate for change

Habiba’s story trending on UN Web TV is a heart wrenching experience of a 14 year old Cameroonian child bride married off because of circumstances beyond her control. Habiba, now 17 years and a mother,  is determined to help other girls stay in school and follow their dreams.

According to UNICEF report, one out of every three girls is married before the age of 18 in Cameroon.

“I didn’t want to get married. I wanted to go to school first. I got married at the age of 14. After my father died, my blind mother struggled to support the family. One day, my school days came to a sudden end. My mother asked me to come home to meet a stranger who was visiting, saying it was an uncle when in fact it was the uncle of my husband. When I arrived, they locked the door behind me. They called the car to get me and they took me away by force into a car.

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“I wanted to jump out of the car but there were men guarding me on either side and I couldn’t get out. I wanted to run away that same day but I couldn’t. Then in less than two weeks, I managed to escape and came back home.

“But my mother said no, she said if I came back, she would leave the house and disown me. That was how I was forced to go back. I wanted to commit suicide and I took knife but didn’t succeed.  I became pregnant. When I was in my seventh month of pregnancy, my husband beat me and my belly started aching. After a week I was still in pain, so I was taken to the hospital where I gave birth to premature twins”. She added.

After given birth, Habiba’s husband abandoned his bride and their newborns and she was forced to move back with her mother. Two weeks after giving birth, Habiba lost one of her twins.

Habibat became an advocate against child bride in her community. She goes door to door asking them to come to her place.

“When they come, I tell them my story. What my mother did to me. How there was no money and she preferred that I get married so they didn’t fall into the same pit I fell into”

Her advice

“I want to advise the mothers not to send their children off to marriage so early even if they are struggling financially. Attending school is a good thing because these days we have equality of the sexes. A girl can not stay at home doing housework while the husband goes to work.

“I want my daughter Anne Martha to go to school so she can have a good education and it is for this reason I am committed to mobilizing young people, mothers and fathers so that children’s rights are respected”.

UNICEF and its partners are promoting the rights of girls to stop child marriage and pregnancy, and empowering them to achieve their aspirations through education and alternative pathways

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