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I was a child bride...but today, I am a University Graduate!

During a high level event to commemorate 25 years of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), UNFPA’s 50th Anniversary and Launch of the State of World Population Report 2019, 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 during my pregnancy. 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. I was also pleased to learn that the schools had a safe space for girls, 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" says Chipasha.

In 2014, Chipasha completed high school and was among the highest scoring students in her class. Based on her outstanding performance, she was awarded a full Government scholarship to study at the University of Zambia, where she 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,” says Chipasha with a smile.