By Regis Nhumba
Lesley Makoni (17), a young woman from Entumbane suburb in Bulawayo metropolitan province says one of the main drivers of early marriage is the behaviour of parents who are quick to punish young people by chasing them away from home for coming back late from social activities. Lesley says she fell into that trap when her father chased her away from home after she had returned home late from a party.
“Last year when I was doing my ordinary level, my friends organised a birthday party at one of the houses in the neighbourhood. I sought permission from my parents and they allowed me to go. These parties are a common practice in our community and they are a platform for young people to socialise,” says Lesley.
Lesley says when she got to the party around 1300 hours, she met her boyfriend who lived at that house. She also met a lot of her friends and they started to eat, drink and dance. She says she lost track of time and only realised that she had to get back home.
“It was around 23:00 when I realised that some of my friends had left the party. I quickly rushed back home only to find that the gate had already been locked. I knocked several times, but no one came out. After knocking for more than 10 minutes, I saw the lights in the house being switched on. My father came out of the house and angrily asked what I was doing outside. I tried to explain that I was coming from the party and that I had lost track of time,” says Lesley.
Lesley says her father was so angry about her coming back late and he told her that his home was not a den of sex workers and that she should go back where she had come from.
“I was shaken by my father’s outburst. I knew that it was wrong to come back so late but I had never anticipated that my father would turn me back at such time of the night. I was so scared, knowing that there were lots of criminal activities during the night in our community. I was afraid that some criminals would pounce on me and rape me,” says Lesley.
After realising that her father would not change his mind, Lesley says she quickly decided to go back to the venue of the party.
“When I got back to the party venue, there were some few people left. My boyfriend was still awake and I told him what had happened. He allowed me to stay and would communicate with his parents who were living in South Africa.
The following day I went home but my mother told me that she had been ordered by my father not to allow her into the house. I went back to my boyfriend and stayed with him and his sister, two young brother and a cousin.
“Initially I did not consider myself to be married. I always thought that my father would send someone to come and take me back home. I also did not engage in any sexual activities with my boyfriend. After some months he coerced me to have sex and I agreed since he had told me that if I refused, he would kick me out of his house,” says Lesley.
Lesley says the ‘marriage’ has ruined her life and her future. She says her father had erred in sending her away since she had not done anything wrong. She says her father had failed to understand that young people of today had different lifestyle compared to the past generation and that this was a major cause of conflict.
“My father was too controlling. He did not want me to socialise with people of my age. He was stuck in the traditional ways where the girl’s place was in the kitchen. Boys would be allowed to come home at their own time and girls would always account for their time and be home all the time. I am a victim of the generational gap. I am in a marriage not because of my choice. There are also many other young girls in my community who have experienced the same challenge. I am still young and would want to do things for myself, all opportunities have been blocked. I have no education and no course. All that were destroyed by this marriage,” says Lesley.