DOREEN NAWA, Mumbwa
TWO years ago, Alice Lupiya walked out on her abusive husband of 15 years.
Ms Lupiya, a mother of three, was a child bride after being married off at the age of 15. She opted for marriage after failing her grade nine examinations in 2001.
Today, Ms Lupiya, 30, is back in school at Mumbwa Day Secondary School. Her eldest daughter is her classmate.
“My parents wanted me to repeat grade nine but there was no money to help further my education, so I had to wait,” Lupiya recollects.
After waiting in futility for a year, Ms Lupiya succumbed to peer pressure and got married.
However, the marriage institution was not as rosy as she thought. “I never enjoyed my marriage. Before I committed to the union, I thought being married was beautiful, but I was wrong. My husband was two years older,” she narrates.
Ms Lupiya was so naïve that she thought being in an abusive marriage was an acceptable phase in the union.
“My parents were aware of the abuse and sometimes, my mother would tell me to leave my matrimonial home but to me, it was never an option because I am a Christian. I know God hates divorce, so I had to grow a ‘thick skin’ and pretended all was well,” Ms Lupiya says.
However, with the passing of time, she could no longer contend the abuse. She disclosed the ‘happenings’ to a non-governmental organisation (NGO).
After being in bondage for 15 years, Ms Lupiya exited her marital home with the help of a gender-based violence (GBV) committee in Shimbizhi area in Mumbwa.
She regrets her decision to choose marriage over education as this has delayed her dream of becoming a doctor.
Ms Lupiya’s story is no different from other women in most rural communities. Adolescent girls are deceived to thinking marriage is a ‘bed of roses’.
Lost in the feeling of ‘love’ and infatuation, girls disregard all warnings but choose to drop out of school for marriage – a decision they realise too late that it is usually far from what they envision.
“I passed through a series of abuse and I regret being a mother at a tender age. My husband often scolded me, that I did not know how to take care of him and he would hit me terribly,” Ms Lupiya recalls.
Luckily for Ms Lupiya, her decision to get back to school is slowly changing her future prospect.
With the help of her parents, who take care of her children, Ms Lupiya is back in school fighting for a way to end the spiral of poverty in her family.
“I am a student like my 15– year-old firstborn daughter but I believe age is not a factor in achieving my dreams. I want to become a medical doctor and later join politics and become a Member of Parliament for Mumbwa Central,” she says.
Although she is in the same grade as her daughter, Ms Lupiya is not bothered.
“I want to advise girls to focus on their education and reject the demands of boys and men who use sweet words to deceive and lure them into marriage,” Ms Lupiya says.
She, however, feels the lack of education on sexual and reproductive health rights leaves most adolescents, especially girls, vulnerable to marriage and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
“At the school level, sex education is not delved into and girls are chastised or tagged as “bad girls” when they inquire about sex and their changing bodies,” Ms Lupiya says.
Ms Lupiya is quick to admit that being a father and mother to her children has not been easy. She currently survives through the sale of honey and tomatoes.
“My eldest child is in grade nine, the other two are in grade three and grade one respectively.
“I am the sole financer for my children’s education and other needs while my parents are providing us with shelter. It is my prayer for well-wishers to come to my aid and help educate my children,” Ms Lupiya says.
And to combat child marriages in Zambia, World Vision Zambia (WVZ) has launched a campaign dubbed ‘It takes Zambia to end child marriage’.
The campaign presents a platform to various stakeholders to discuss and address the rampant cases of child marriages in Zambia.
The project, which was recently launched in Mumbwa district, is aimed at educating communities on the rights of girls, their entitlements and responsibilities.
WVZ communications manager Pamela Chama says the NGO has been working in various rural communities across the country to empower girls and restore their dignity by supporting them in school.
“Girls like Alice need to be supported to pursue their dreams and career goals. As a social justice organisation committed to achieving social justice, women equality and poverty eradication, we remain determined to serve as a catalyst to community development and female empowerment,” Ms Chama says.
And the local authority in Mumbwa district says ending child marriage in the district is timely, considering the number of girls that get pregnant annually.
“Last year, when First lady Esther Lungu visited the district to present Christmas hampers to new mothers. Most of them (new mothers) were teenage girls,” Mumbwa Town Council chairperson Gracious Hamatala says.
Cases like Ms Lupiya’s are a common factor. One would only wish for an end to child marriage by engaging everyone in the fight against the vice.
DOREEN NAWA, Mumbwa