In 2017, one of Help Lesotho’s alumni delivered a compelling speech in honour of the International Day of the Girl. Felleng’s words are a powerful reminder about the need to end child marriage if Lesotho’s girls will have a chance at a brighter future.
As young girls and women, we face many different challenges. We are vulnerable in all aspects and are treated as worthless. Today is the International Day of the Girl. This day exists because the world needs to pay attention to the injustices that prevent girls from reaching their potential. While today we shout from the top of our lungs against child and forced marriage, we hope to be heard and not just heard but we hope to see action taken against child marriage. So many girls do not get to have their voices heard. They suffer in silence as victims in their families and relationships. Today I am speaking for the girls who do not get to be here today because they are being held like hostages as wives.
Our culture allows – and even encourages – child and forced marriage. This practice has deep traditional connections BUT things can change! We are girls of new generation. The practice of early and forced marriage was created by people, and they can undo it.
Why should we be given away to old men, with no respect for our bodies, our lives, and our futures?
Parents seem to think that daughters will bring their families shame, particularly if one was to fall pregnant before marriage. But is the worry of this shame worth destroying a daughter’s life?
Because most of us come from very poor families, our parents see us as a source of their wealth. The temptation of the lobola is difficult to resist, even though it only yields a temporary gain for most families. When will it be time to prioritize the wellbeing of girl children, instead of trading them for such small benefits.
Each girl who is forced to marry is a victim. As victims our lives are miserable, we cry day in day out. We are being abused physically, emotionally and mentally. We are young. Not only young in age, but some of us are tiny, our bodies are too immature to carry another human being when we become pregnant against our wishes.
Human beings are intelligent. We know the difference between right and wrong. We have the power to make changes and improvements. The evidence is clear that child marriage is harmful, not only to girls, but to entire communities.
- How much longer shall we young girls be tortured for doing no wrong but just for being girls?
- Where are the laws to protect us?
- Why are they only written in documents and not implemented?
- Why are we never involved in decisions that affect us most?
There should be nothing for us without us, and may you who hear us help us, may our grievances be heard and touch the souls of those with power and authority to help us. I call on each person in Lesotho to fight against child marriage.
Let us empower girls to live as children, not as wives.