Sylvia with her sisters Hope and Happy. Today Sylvia is happily marriage-free. Photo by Jennalise Photography, World Vision
“My name is Sylvia. I’m 15 years old, yet to make 16. I live with my mother. My dad died. I have five sisters and four brothers and they also stay here with my mum.
I used to go to school and enjoy it. In the morning I’d go with my friends. But now, I haven’t been to school for two years. I’m not enjoying being home.
It was school holidays and the time came to go back to school. I was staying with one of my elder brothers and he said that I wouldn’t be going back. They said they didn’t have money for me to go and live in the school’s boarding section.
I kept on telling them about the nearest schools, but they said they were too far away – that I couldn’t go. I kept on asking them but after a while I gave up. One week later, they brought a man to this home. He’d come to marry me.
I said, “I don’t want to be married off”. They said, “There’s no money for the boarding school and you’re no longer in school. What else? You have to get married”. I told them, “I don’t want to. Why didn’t you give me an option to find another way? To find a school I can go to?”
I kept on saying this but they continued with their plans. I got the idea of writing a letter to Aunty Ruth and the World Vision child protection committee. My two sisters study at the place where the child protection committee is. I wrote a letter to her and gave it to my sisters without my brothers knowing.
I was so happy when I sent the letter and Aunty Ruth responded, because she’s rescued so many girls and I expected her to help me. I really got a positive response.
When Aunty Ruth met one of my brothers, she talked to him and he denied it. She asked him, ‘Why is Sylvia at home if you don’t want to marry her off? Why is she not at school?’
My brother came home and spoke with my other brothers. We fought. The next day my mother came back and they told her what had happened. They fought.
I ran away to one of my uncles and I had to hide there for one week. When I came home everyone was so angry. They said they can’t take care of me anymore, because I’ve refused to get married.
I stayed quiet about this until now. I’m on my own and I can’t go back to school. But I’m willing to go back if any support is given to me. Maybe I can go to vocational studies, somewhere where I can generate some income to take care of myself.
My age is not the right age to get married. I would really love to get married once I’m 20 years old, or older, but not 15. I see people who get married above those years and they are in much better situations.
All of the girls who have been married off at my age are in a bad situation. What they’re going through is really so hard. That would have been the same situation to me.
You’ll find those who are married off young have their husbands beating them day and night. Others have so many children that even their mothers have to help to take care of them, the husbands don’t look after them.
What makes me happy is when I’m not forced to do something I don’t want to do. I feel comfortable when I do something that I really want. In my free time, I enjoy reading the Bible and going to church. I sing in the choir. That’s what I enjoy, singing and reading the Bible. It makes me happy.
I’m so happy now and I feel like I should continue protecting myself and to be able to help my mother and my other siblings as time goes on. Since my childhood I’ve always wanted to become a nurse after my studies, that’s what I really wanted. But now that I’ve dropped out of school… I don’t know, I still have the aspiration of becoming a nurse.”
World Vision works with children, parents and community leaders to help inform people about the dangers of early marriage and the importance of keeping children in school. By working to prevent planned early marriages and partnering with communities to address the root causes of the practice, we hope to keep children safe from early marriage. You can help by sponsoring a child today.