“The man took me to his house, saying that from then on I was his wife. It was a shock of my life. I couldn’t run away since I didn’t know the place and I was almost confined inside. I stayed there for a period of two months but to me those were like years bearing in mind what I went through” narrates 16-year-old Alice (not her real name) while giving account of what she went through to the District Child Protection Team (DCPT). “I was constantly thinking of how to escape from him”
Alice was a victim of child marriage in Kisarawe district in Pwani, one of the coastal regions of Tanzania.
The man took me to his house, saying that from then on I was his wife. It was a shock of my life.
Alice’s father conspired to marry her off after receiving 15 heads of cattle from an old pastoralist man. He made every attempt to lure Alice to shift from her school in Mbeya region, south western of Tanzania where they were living, to Pwani region, pretending to help her. But his goal was to get dowry in exchange for his daughter.
When the ordeal unfolded, Alice had just joined secondary school in 2012, full of many good dreams of her life. All this time, her father was planning to marry her off. He constantly argued and fought with her mother on this. In the end, she also was coersed to agree to the idea.
At the age of 16, Alice ended up in a house with a man who allegedly had given her father a dowry of 15 cows.
Local government intervention
When she couldnt stand the forced marriage at such a young age, Alice escaped and went to report at a nearest local government office where she met the Ward Executive Officer (WEO), narrated her ordeal and asked for help. The WEO helped her with busfare and referred her to a temporary foster parent in nearby Kisarawe District.
At this point the case was reported to the District Child Protection Team (DCPT), who took the case to the Police who later worked with the District Social Welfare Department in apprehending and educating the parents before taking Alice back to school.
Alice’s case was one of many reported and handled in Kisarawe District as a result of the Violence Against Children (VAC) project. The three year Europen Union funded project had established and strengthened the DCPTs, the Police Gender/Children’s Desk as well as the Juvenile Courts that have now been adopted into the government Child Protection System.
The facilities and equipment alongside capacity building (community and government officials trainings on child protection) public awareness, sensitisation and mobilisation have all been handed over to the districts government structures where the project was being implemented.
More cases reported to the Police
The Head of Police Criminal Investigations in Kisarawe District, Juma Kanena, attributes the increase in numbers of reported child rights violation cases to the VAC project.
He says before the project, in many instances people were not reporting such cases to the police, instead they were trying to solve them at home. Records show that out of 37 cases on child abuse reported in the period of eight months, 14 of them were about rape involving young girls. Out of those, only 12 cases were filed in courts.
“The number of child rape cases is the leading classification of child abuse cases reported to the Police in the district. Out of the 12 cases taken to court, three suspects were found guilty and got prison sentences. Six other cases are still in courts and three cases were dismissed due to lack of evidence,” he discloses.
Alice is currently in form four and is working very hard to realise her childhood dream of becoming a teacher in order to help other children. Her foster parent describes Alice as a decent girl and very charming at home and school. “She is doing well in her studies. Her examination results are also good,” she says.
Later, Alice came to learn that later her father returned the 15 cows that he had received as her dowry.
“Maybe he realised his mistake,” says Alice.