News

“Safe Space” in My School Inspired Me to Claim My Rights: A Story from Rural Zambia

20 March 2019

Chipasha’s Story

Chipasha, a 25-year-old young mother and former child bride from Kaoma – a rural district in Western Zambia - shares how life skills taught through a “safe space” within her school helped her assert herself and claim her rights against child marriage.

“At age 15, I dropped out of school to get married to an army sergeant who was 20 years older than me. My family was experiencing financial problems, and as such, my father was happy to receive 300 Zambian Kwacha ($30) as bride price from him. My husband abused me physically, emotionally and sexually even when I was pregnant with his child. Being very young, I found it very difficult to stand up to him even when I knew what he was doing was wrong.

However, my reality changed 1 year later, when I participated in a child marriage awareness raising activity in my village, which encouraged me to return to school and complete my education.

Despite resistance from my husband, I was determined to take action to fulfil my dreams.  I re-enrolled at a local secondary school and I was happy to learn that YWCA had a safe space for girls within the school premises, which empowers girls like me to claim our rights and fulfil their potential.

With the help of our mentor, I finally moved out of my abusive marriage, together with my baby. By the time I completed high school, I had acquired valuable knowledge and skills from the safe space. I learnt about my human rights and built my confidence to the level where I was able to resist child marriage in pursuit of my dreams” Chipasha highlights with a big smile.

Building Girls Protective Assets through Safe Spaces

In Zambia, safe spaces have emerged as a key strategy for the protection and empowerment of adolescent girls.

Since 2014, over 663 safe spaces have been established through the “UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme on Ending Child Marriage” supported by UKAid, European Union, Canada and the Netherlands. Implemented by the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA), the safe space programme is aimed at equipping girls affected and at risk of child marriage with life skills that can enable them resist child marriage, deal with challenges they face in their day to day lives, and support a healthy transition from childhood to adulthood.

Inspiring Action for Girls Affected and at Risk of Child Marriage

In 2014, Chipasha completed high school education and was among the highest scoring students in her examination class. Based on her outstanding performance, she was awarded a full Government scholarship to study at the University of Zambia, and graduated with Merit in March 2019.

Using her past experiences and knowledge acquired through the safe space, Chipasha is now encouraging other girls affected and at risk of child marriage through public talks and group discussions at various fora in Zambia as well as other countries within the region.

Sharing her message to all adolescent girls in Zambia, Chipasha highlights:

 “Today, I have a message for girls who are caught up in the same situation I was 10 years ago. I urge you all to speak up, learn about your rights and seek to get back to school. Time has come for you to stand up and say NO to child marriage.

Once you are educated, you can be whatever you want to be…a doctor, engineer or a lawyer…anything you want to be! You will also have the power to make a difference in the lives of other people and contribute to our country’s’ development. I am a living testimony of this.

To parents, I would like to urge you to just let girls be girls, not brides” Concludes Chipasha