Early marriage turmoil for a 16 year old girl

By Nomzamo Gwebu

Ayanda Dube (16), (name changed) says when she got pregnant and moved in with her boyfriend, his family turned her into the family maid. She says she was denied opportunities to continue with her education and was tasked to do most of the household chores.

“My boyfriend was still going to school. Her mother was keeping him away from me because she did not want him to be affected at school. I became the maid of the house. Life was difficult for me and I cried everyday but no one took notice of my situation,” says Ayanda.

Ayanda says her problems started in 2019 when she was doing her Ordinary Level at a local school in Njube suburb in Bulawayo city. At that time she says she was staying with her mother and siblings. Her father works in the neighbouring country of South Africa. Her mother was a designer specializing in decorations for houses and weddings. Her job kept her away from home most of the time.

When Ayanda started dating, she says there was no one to guide her or control her as she and her siblings were alone most of the time. She says she got into a relationship with school mate and the relationship was hectic.

“Every time my mother left home to spend days away at work, I would take it is an opportunity to spend time with my boyfriend. My boyfriend and I got carried away until a time when I started to sleep over at his place. I would leave my siblings during the night to spend the night at my boyfriend’s place,” says Ayanda.

Ayanda says this went on for some time until the neighbors noticed and warned her mother. By that time Ayanda says it was already too late as she was pregnant. She says she was afraid to tell anyone about the pregnancy since she and her boyfriend were still too young.

“One day in March 2020, my mother told us that she was traveling to Harare. When she left for Harare, I quickly did my household chores. Later in the evening when my siblings were asleep, I went to my boyfriend. He was not aware that I was pregnant. After a blissful night with my boyfriend, I went back only to find my mother at home,” says Ayanda.

Ayanda says her mother was furious and tried to beat her up but she escaped and went to her boyfriend’s place. She says her mother later got to know about her whereabouts but did not make any efforts to come for her. Ayanda adds that she was afraid of her mother and decided to stay with her boyfriend but her life was miserable.

“My mother-in-law was cruel to me and she did not hide her feelings. She accused me of trying to ruin her son’s life. She made sure I had no access to her son. My boyfriend continued to go to school as usual while I assumed the duties of a house help. I had the responsibility of doing all household chores, gardening and any domestic work,” says Ayanda.

To make the situation worse, Ayanda says her pregnancy was also troubling her.

“My pregnancy was not that easy. I yearned for my husband’s support but he was not available. I cried day and night but there was no one to console me,” says Ayanda.

Ayanda says her nightmare ended when her father came back from South Africa. She says she went home and begged her father to allow her to come back. Her family agreed to take her and her baby back.

Ayanda feels that her life could have taken a better turn if she had access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information. During the blissful period of her relationship, Ayanda says she never discussed about contraception with her boyfriend. She says she never thought she would get pregnant even though they were having unprotected sex. For her, it was just fun.

Cases of teen pregnancies and child marriages are taking centre stage in Zimbabwe. Between January and February 2021, there are reports that 4,959 girls fell pregnant, and 1,174 cases of child marriages were recorded.

Creative Centre for Communication and Development, Zimbabwe