For most teenagers, things like going to the football game, spending time with friends and knocking out this weekend’s homework is what occupies most of their free time. At just 13 years old, Memory Banda was faced with a much different reality — the horror of child marriage.
Banda is from Malawi, where 50 percent of girls are married by age of 18. We’re not talking marriage between high school sweethearts. Usually, the men are at least twice — if not three times — the girls’ age.
Banda described child marriage as Malawi’s most “traumatic tradition.”
She said when girls reach puberty — usually around 10 or 11 years old — they are forced into “initiation camps.” At the camps, they learn a lot of different things, like how to sexually please a man.
On what they call “a very special day,” a man who is paid by the community will go to the camp and have sex with all of the little girls.
He rapes them.
Most of these girls marry almost immediately. Others become pregnant and drop out of school. “Those who drop out of school really have only one option,” Banda explains. “Marriage.”
The reality of child marriage is harrowing and robs young girls of their innocence and childhood. “I really need to step up,” Banda thought to herself as she witnessed the reality first-hand.
“Things changed around me when I saw child marriage happening in my own family — my cousins, and sister and those people around me…my peers in my class were being married off,” she said. “When I saw that happening in my own family, that is when I really felt this thing of child marriage and the pain that girls have to go through.”