She sat sobbing at a corner in the poorly lit room. The room was had attached to it a kitchen from which smoke streamed in from the holes on the brick walls. All the best things in life are free. She shook her head as she made the statement mockingly, half aloud. In the past few days she had come to very much doubt some of such sayings on which her childhood had been based.
To her, the only thing that was free was the air that kept her alive. She had sometimes even wished she didn’t have it. She was paying the price of belonging to a family. Within the past few weeks, she had come to understand and experience a lot of things she never saw coming as a teenage girl. Things she never saw even in horror movies. How could one person’s departure turn her life affect her so much overnight? Grandma had been right. Mom was too protective of her. Too protective to a fault. Like a chick her cover was gone and the kites had come to prey on her. When the future dies, do you die with it?
She thought her dad had been joking when he said he was giving her hand in marriage. Was that what he called culture? At 15 she was still too young to be a wife. Too young, naive, powerless. Very vulnerable. She didn’t know who to turn to. The last time she confided to grandma about hating the idea she was starved for a day. Sitting at the corner where she was, she saw her life to be like the candle that lit the room. It was coming to an end. If tears could save her she would have been free long ago.
If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves?
― Mary Astell
The song and dance from that came from outside got louder now. The thought of her being married made her heart beat faster than the pace of the drums and she began to sweat profusely. Was this how she was going to end? What would become of all her knowledge and plans for the future? She had been the brightest in her class but dad didn’t let her sit for exams saying she was brilliant enough. What was his measuring rod? Was it because she could cook good food or wash children’s clothes? Or because she looked a bit mature for her age?
She heard the old wooden door creak as it flung open. She lifted her head slowly towards the dark figure that came in as she stood up. Up to this point she did not even know who it was going to be. She looked again more keenly as she tried to make out his face in the poorly lit room. When he finally spoke, her worst fears were confirmed. It was her class teacher. The very one who had told them marrying early wasn’t ideal. What had happened to his morale, his self-esteem? With more tears in her eyes, she retired to the corner and waited for the candle to fade out.
According to the UN, 37,000 girls under the age of 18 are married each day with the highest rates being observed in Sub-Saharan Africa. Educate Parents and sensitize communities. Play your part.