My friend, the 13 year old bride

My family moved to a very poor township when I was 11/12 years old.  It was a shock to my young system to see such poverty.   One thing I quickly came to learn in the area was that marrying off girls at a tender age was not only a possibility, but a reality.  I knew this was wrong, but its gravity did not hit me until when I was much older.

One of my bossom friends, Lydia, was a casualty as was her baby sister, Tamara, many years later (I will write about the tragic life of Tamara another time).  Lydia was 13 years old when she was married off to a newcomer to the area, David.  Money is usually the motivation for marrying off children, but in Lydia’s case, it was because her mother wanted her daughter to be a ‘respected’ girl.  Respect means a lot in my society.  David was less than a year in the area having come from a far flung village to look for a job.  He was dirt poor and was renting a room.  For some reason, Lydia’s parents thought he would be a catch for her.

The bride price?  David had to chase and catch a chicken (which belonged to Lydia’s parents) and give it to them.  ??!  He took Lydia home as his bride after that.  It’s the first and only time I have heard of this, as usually the groom-to-be has to give something of his own.

Lydia had to stop playing with us  because we were still ‘children’ while she was now a fully-fledged ‘adult’ at 13.  She spent her time doing housewife duties, but had a lot of extra hours especially since she didn’t have kids at the beginning.  One day, Lydia bumped into us ‘children’ at the communal tap and invited us to visit her as she was lonely, what with her husband at work the whole day.  We went later that day and we had a great time playing – in her backyard I might add, otherwise neighbors would have seen her and reported her to her husband.  We continued going to Lydia’s house for another couple of years and only stopped when she had a baby.  We used to leave at about 4.00 pm so that she could clear the yard of all traces of playing.  

This makes you realize how wrong it is that children are forced into marriage.  Lydia may have claimed to be happy, but I don’t think that the loneliness and isolation were worth it.  She was too young to mingle with the older wives, so that left her in a vacuum.  She had to carry herself as an adult and ignore us when she was with her husband. A child should not have to such unnecessary conflict.

I thought of Lydia because this is still happening in this day and age in my childhood township.  Children are now protected with laws put in place and enforced, but child brides still abound.  I was fortunate because my parents were progressive and always told me (since I was a girl) that there was a big world out there for me to explore and enjoy as an individual.   They said I should work hard, support myself and the world was mine for the taking.

I am grateful for my parents.  I wonder how Lydia would have turned out had her parents told her about the big wonderful world out there.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Sartenada
    Dec 22, 2018 @ 09:04:01



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