Congolese refugee girl campaigns against child marriage from her home in Kiziba camp
On the occasion of the launch of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, Asha has composed a dramatic sketch to be performed for refugees in the Kiziba camp on the dangers of early marriage.
“Girls from Kiziba refugee camp – our home – have their future lost or destroyed, this is something I can’t accept. With my little voice I will advocate for them; I have to fight for young girls’ rights until something happens.”
When Carine Asha arrived to Rwanda’s Kiziba refugee camp in 2003, the 15-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was not aware of the issue of early marriages. She became concerned when she started teaching in Amahoro College – Kiziba camp secondary school – in 2013 and then she realized that some of the young refugee girls started to drop out of school as young as 15-years-old.
“Most of the young girls studying at Amahoro College were dropping out to get married. I strongly believed that they were making a big mistake,” she said.
Once a refugee orphan and now a single mother, Asha lives with her 4 year-old in Rwanda’s oldest refugee camp established in 1996. Through their church in Kiziba camp, Asha started a club “Amis de Dieu” with a mission to provide extensive counselling to refugee girls as well as some families on the medical and psychological consequences of early marriages.
“Some of the girls who dropped out school and got married were among the best students in the class. Some of them didn’t want to get married, but their parents thought it was the best option for them. In our home-village, some parents believe that early marriages will ensure their daughters’ economic security and lessen the family’s expenses, but it is not true,” she says.
Asha extended the church club to the secondary school to encourage her friends and students to share the risks of early child marriage with their parents and neighbors.
On the occasion of the launch of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, an international campaign which takes place each year and runs from 25 November to 10 December, Asha has composed a dramatic sketch to be performed for refugees in the Kiziba camp on the dangers of early marriage. Asha hopes that it will change the mindset of some families and also young girls who are attracted by wealth and forget about taking control of their own futures.
She says that – as believed by many of her refugee camp – these marriage may not provide these families with a sense of security, but undermine the future of the innocent young girls. “Child marriage is not a safe alternative for girls,” she says. “Girls who marry before 18 are more likely to report being beaten by their husbands and forced to have sex than girls who marry later.”
As a 28 year-old single mother, Asha still hopes to marry in the future. “But only on my terms,” she says. “After I’ve finished my education and been able to live at my own and not depending on my future partner.”
Communications/PI Associate, UNHCR
E-mail: [email protected]