Jemila was born on December 4th, 2005. The laughter on her face said it all. It was full of the desire for a better day. Each day lightened her heart, and every moment told volumes.
Somewhere in Jemila’s heart, she knew she had a purpose and a hope to hold on to. But her environment spoke the opposite of her thoughts. As she grew, it seemed her hope was flying in the air. The more she stretched forth her little hands, the farther they went.
When Jemila was 15, her father’s friend Malam Isah visited. He was a tall, healthy man, full of life, and had the wealth to spice up the cake. The lunch was ready, and Malam Isah was joining in. Alhaja, Jemila’s mum, had made the meal, so she called out to her daughter.
Jemila, please take this food carefully and serve the guest she requested. As Jemila walked in to serve the food on their small bamboo table, Isah beamed at her as though he had known her forever. What a beautiful girl, he thought to himself.
Mallam Jibrin, isn’t this Jemila, your first daughter? he asked. Yes, replied mallam Jibrin.
She is beautiful, Isah said. The conversation ended at this point as they started with their meal, but Isah could not forget the teenage girl he just saw. And he did end up getting her for himself.
That was the genesis of Jemila’s marriage; It only took Mallam Isah to remind his friend Jibrin of their traditional beliefs–the disadvantages of which had long overshadowed the advantages–and the benefits of him marrying Jemila for the deal to be done.
What had she hoped for?
Jemila desired to be an emotionally and mentally stable young woman to make her choices and take responsibility for them. This way, she would become a strong pillar of society by overcoming life’s challenges of poverty, illiteracy, early pregnancies, and the dealings of motherhood coupled with an uncertain future. She had skills and talents that she still needed to discover. Every time she was greeted with uncertainty, she expected those around her to re-establish her faith and bring her to the realization that her dreams were workable. This age was the stepping stone to discovering who she was, and she lost it because of family, religion, culture, and a young man who decided to make her an unprepared bride.
What is her vision now?
The global epidemic of child marriage, which is still widely practiced across Africa, is not unusual. Girls younger than 12 years old or 15 years old are given to marriage without their consent. This violates the fundamental rights of these children and places them at a disadvantage. It has been determined that child marriage has detrimental effects on children’s education and their integrity and dignity. It is her vision to get back her integrity and dignity.
This is now her life mission.
Her mission is to passionately tell the world how much negative impact she suffers from being a child bride and the benefits society would enjoy if she lived her dream.
How can you help?
Jemila is one of many teenage girls who skip a vital development stage and take up another without having enough exposure to tackle life struggles associated with adulthood. At Casey Foundation, we are committed to reaching out to these girls through rural awareness campaigns across Africa and empowering victims who fall prey to the circumstances. By breaking the stigma associated with this ordeal, we restore hope to these girls, giving them a chance to dream again.
You can also be part of this initiative by making donations to Casey Foundation. This could be a one-time donation, or you can make a more significant impact by making a monthly commitment. Every penny will empower many of the Jemilas out in the world.
Religion, culture, and family must change their unethical practices and adopt proactive practices. Furthermore, vulnerable people like children should be given affirmative action, which should be domesticated in the Ugandan constitution.
Geoffrey, we appreciate you for sharing your ideas with the Casey Foundation.
Early child marriage should be abolished in it’s totality
It’s an abuse to the minor and a disgrace to the perpetuators.
It’s should please stop.
The Government must ensure that children are protected especially the girl child,more measures should be employed ,religious leaders must be engaged together with cultural leaders,the girl child should be supported to achieve her dreams.otherwise thanks Casey for the good work