World Vision Child Protection Committee member Ruth (in blue) talks with Sylvia and her mother. Ruth helped to prevent Sylvia from being married early. Photo by Jennalise Photography
I’m Ruth. World Vision trained me, I’m one of the child protection sub-county committee members. In this role I work with children on their rights, and I also ask their parents their roles in protecting their children.
What motivated me to work with World Vision is the work their staff do within the community. We work to protect children, especially from getting married when they’re young because of the many difficulties that come along with this. First of all, it’s a problem when girls give birth when they’re young. They’re often not able to stand on their own as parents at that age.
I’m a parent. I have four children, two girls and two boys. I really talk to my children about protection every day that goes by, because I was also married off young. I had my first baby, but I didn’t even know how to bathe them. I was 16 years old when I got married. I had my first child at 17.
I’ve seen complications, girls can fail to give birth and are operated on. Those who do manage to successfully give birth, sometimes they’re not able to care for their children, and they become malnourished.
As we continue to educate the parents and their children on child marriage, they come to know what should be done to protect the children. The children also know what they should do to protect themselves. But as well as this, they grow to know us as committee members.
Those who are not protecting children fear us, because we’re out there in the community going about our day-to-day activities. When children have a problem they run to us and tell us their issues and we intervene.
I will feel happy when I’m successful in this battle on child marriage, like Sylvia’s case. Sylvia knows one of the people in the committee and when she had her problem she wrote a letter to me. When I knew what was happening I intervened immediately.
I believe that Sylvia’s situation would be terrible now because of so many of the challenges that surround the marriages of these young children. She was so unhappy about the idea of getting married off, she would not be happy now. I’m so happy for Sylvia that she wasn’t married. I really believe she can now prepare for her future and help care for her siblings without any other disturbances.
I wish for the girls of this community to be more like Sylvia. I hope they can be bold enough to protect their lives. Even when they’re not able to go for their formal education, they can have vocational training. If they get married in their later years, they can then look after their families.
Parents have different reasons for marrying off their children while they’re young. Some say that they want to add to their riches, because when they marry their children they get money. To the others – they’re ignorant. They don’t know the challenges that their children will face.
The child protection committee members report child marriage cases to the police. The two families usually come together and discuss the situation and they agree. But with World Vision interventions, we’ve been taught how to intermediate and we become a third party to reaching an agreement.
The local religious leaders initially were unsupportive, but they were called and trained and educated on child protection. They’ve been trained so that if these girls go to church to get married, they intervene and they don’t accept these marriages and will not make them official. That’s one way that they’re supporting us.
The situation here regarding child marriage has changed, because before it was really too much. Now people fear the child protection committee within the community, and with the World Vision interventions child marriage has been greatly reduced. I believe with time the future will become brighter.
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