#EndChildMarriageNOW: A Former Child Bride Shares Her Story

The human rights organization Unicef arranged a “Youth Takeover” of their Twitter account in honor of International Day of the African Child (#DAC2015), an annual event dedicated to raising awareness to the plight of impoverished African children. This year, the focus is on the exploitation of young girls in parts of Africa where child marriage is still practiced.

Unicef’s Twitter account was taken over by five women, all of whom have been directly affected by the practice. One of them, ‘Jennifer’, whose name has been changed to protect her identity,* is a survivor of the cruel practice. At age 13, she was kidnapped by the Ugandan militia group Lord’s Resistance Army, where she was forcibly “married” to one of the group’s commanding officers. She eventually escaped, and now works as an advocate against the marriages of young African girls.

She shared her story for the first time on Twitter.

She recalls being forced to march for a week to an LRA hideout in Kitgum, a municipality in Northern Uganda.

Here she refers to LRA leader Joseph Kony. Readers may recall Kony was the subject of a viral video documentary released in 2012 by the activism group Invisible Children.

Joseph Kony, leader of the militia group Lord's Resistance Army.
Joseph Kony, leader of the militia group Lord’s Resistance Army.

Kony’s militia has been known to abduct children and indoctrinate them into his cult of personality, turning some into vicious child soldiers.

‘Jennifer’ goes on to recount being given as a bride to an LRA commander.

After speaking of the hardships she endured living with the militia group, she recounts her daring escape.

She and the other mothers waited until the dry season, when livestock keepers would move their cattle from one location to another. “We knew that the cattle would cover our tracks, so that the LRA could not find us.” She said.

'Jennifer' and four other captive women used cattle tracks to hide their trail as they fled the LRA.
‘Jennifer’ and four other captive women used cattle tracks to hide their trail as they fled the LRA.

The journey was long and perilous. Had the women been caught, the consequences would have been severe.

What she says next is absolutely heartbreaking:

‘Jennifer’ hopes to build a new life in Uganda and learn new skills so she can support her daughter.

There is, perhaps, a little cosmic justice for ‘Jennifer’:

Child marriage is an accepted custom in countries like Uganda and Somalia. Organizations like Unicef and Girls Not Brides have long spoken out against the practice. The entire Youth Takeover event, including the amazing stories from four more activists, can be found on Unicef’s official Twitter page. The hashtag #EndChildMarriageNOW has been trending in support of Unicef’s aims.

*Please note: the women pictured with the blurred face is not ‘Jennifer’, and is only used to represent the subject.

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Timothy Bertrand
Writer and journalist living in the Houston, Texas area. Follow me for breaking news, editorials, pictures of cats doing human activities, and other such content from around the web.


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