Siphiwe, 19, lives with her husband Arthur, 24, in Kwekwe district, Zimbabwe. Married for 3 years, they have a 7-month-old baby named Ashley.
“When I met Arthur I had left school and was living with my aunt,” says Siphiwe. “At first I didn’t want to get married, but I had left school and there was nothing else to do.”
Forced into marriage
Siphiwe felt marriage was the only way to escape her home life. Having left school as she could not afford the fees, she was seen by her uncle as an extra mouth to feed.
To other girls I say don’t rush into marriage
In Zimbabwe, approximately 1 in 3 girls are married before 18, predominantly those who live in poverty and in rural areas.
Siphiwe is now occupied with household and childcare tasks. “There is no freedom in marriage. You have to be seen to be busy. Cooking, washing clothes, sweeping the yard. I miss school because at school you are free. You are free to play with your friends and to just be yourself.”
Invisibility leads to early marriages
Having been unable to finish school and expected to fulfil domestic roles, girls in this situation are unable to gain new skills to become independent and transform their futures. “I get worried that I cannot get a good job to contribute to the income of the family and take care of my child,” says Siphiwe.
Lennart Reinius, Plan International Zimbabwe Country Director says, “In Zimbabwe, girls who drop out of school and marry disappear from official records so service providers are less inclined to act to support them.”
Data needed on girls’ lives
Once invisible to their governments, other factors such as rural isolation and lack of opportunities exacerabate the situation for girls. ‘Counting the Invisible’ shows that governments will not end the inequality facing millions of girls like Siphiwe without better statistics on the realities they face.
“To other girls I say don’t rush into marriage,” says Siphiwe. “Go to school and finish. Taking care of a child at a young age is very difficult.”