SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Chongwe
FOR Yvonne Nalungwe, 34, the plight of a girl-child is one that has always invoked a deep passion in her to avert an array of challenges faced by a girl child.
This is because she was once a victim of abuse, violence and early marriage.
Yvonne, who became a mother at a tender age of 17, is aware that the development of Zambia is largely dependent on how a girl child is empowered.
Now a teacher at Chitentabunga Primary School in Chongwe district, Yvonne narrated how she was forced into marriage with a 21-year-old man after falling pregnant at 17. She was doing her Grade 12.
She managed to sit for her grade 12 final examination whilst pregnant and a month after completing her school, she gave birth to a baby girl.
Yvonne, who is the last born in a family of five explained that she got pregnant due to lack of parental care.
She recalls that after giving birth she was chased from her brother’s home and told to join the man responsible for her pregnancy.
From there, Yvonne was forced to move into the man’s house and that the marriage was abusive.
She now has a 16-year-old daughter.
As unbearable as the marriage was, Yvonne says she held on for seven years and only decided to divorce her husband when she was 24-years- old.
Yvonne explained that her ex-husband used to abuse her physically and mentally.
She revealed that during her abusive marriage, her husband ended up impregnating five different women, and that he would most of the times spend nights out of their home.
“I divorced him after I realised that what was happening to me and my child was not right. I picked up the pieces of my life and began to move on until I had to completely let go of the abusive marriage,” she recalls.
Yvonne, an orphan, described her life as tough, she says she lost her parents at a tender age and was raised by her brother.
She is currently a single mother of one and recounts that it was not easy to leave her abusive marriage until she was brave enough to approach her brother and explain all her challenges.
She then requested, the brother who was kind enough, to take her back to school.
“I explained to my brother who took me back to school. Then I went to do a diploma in education after which I was posted at Chitentabunga Primary School,” she said.
At this point, she had been accorded a second chance.
“By leaving my abusive marriage and turning my life around with the help and support of my family and community, I have been able to become a true survivor,” she said.
As a survivor of early child marriage, Yvonne says she has turned the wounds into wisdom, and taken a pledge to narrate what she went through to the masses, especially teenage girls, so that they learn from it.
She urged parents not to just provide education but the parents should always be there and support the children.
Yvonne says parents should find time to sit with the children and give them counsel.
She said when girls are impregnated, they should not be forced into marriage but should be encouraged to continue attending school.
“Girls should be allowed to pursue education and later be independent so that they can handle the marital challenges when they are mature enough,” Yvonne said.
She also encouraged girls not be swayed by material things as that can lead to different problems such as unwanted pregnancies, Sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV/AIDS among others.
“I can relate to the pain of being abused and abandoned with shuttered dreams. This is why girls should ensure that they concentrate on school as getting in relationships can affect their future dreams,” she said.
Prior to her marriage she went to Kitwe’s Nkana Primary School in 1991. In 1996, she moved to Mwaba Primary School in Chinsali for her sixth to ninth grades.
She later went to Kalonga Secondary School in Kabwe in 2000 for her tenth grade where she completed her secondary education in 2002.
For her tertiary education she went to Immaculate Visitation Teachers College for a diploma in education from 2010 to 2012 and later went to St Eugene University for a degree in 2015 to April this year.
She is a teacher of English and Religious Education at Chitentabunga School where she takes grade eights and nines.
SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Chongwe