In Djama’s culture, a man will give a healthy girl’s parents at least ten cows when they marry. If the girl has agreeable traits, she could be worth as many as 25 cows!
When she was eleven, Djama’s father made it public that she was ready to be married. An older man from another village began negotiations with her father. The bride price was settled, and the engagement was announced.
Djama told us, “The man was someone that I did not know and he already had three wives. I was to be number four. I didn’t like the idea, but in my country, it is not the child who decides these things, it is the parents.”
Djama’s mother said, “We didn’t mean to cause her any harm. It is quite common in our culture for girls to marry early. We didn’t know how dangerous it could be for our daughter.”
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) gathered parents and teachers from Djama’s community to discuss the dangers of child marriages and the importance of education.
“We learned that having a baby before the age of 18 is not safe for either the mother or the baby,” shared Djama’s mother. “We also learned that when girls get an education, they tend to look after their parents better when they are older.”
ADRA knows that long-term, integrated programs that bring education and income opportunities are necessary to break cycles of extreme poverty and bring about lasting, positive change.
“ADRA built a school compound near our village with beautiful classrooms, toilets, and a good well,” Djama’s mother added. “They gave the children everything they needed to learn, like backpacks, textbooks, exercise books, pens and pencils, and a solar lamp to study their lessons after dark! ADRA also worked with the teachers to help them improve their teaching methods so that they could become better teachers!
“ADRA has changed how our whole community now thinks about the importance of education and early marriage for our girls. After meeting with our village elders and community leaders to discuss these issues, they have also started recommending that we keep our girls in school.”
Djama said, “When all of this started happening, my parents decided to cancel the plans for my wedding. First, I was accepted into a special speed school where I was able to learn the basics so I could catch up to other children my own age. I am now in grade six and I am loving it! It is my dream to finish here and go on to secondary school. Someday I wish to become a teacher myself!”
ADRA Canada is collaborating with our partners in a four-year project to increase access to quality education for girls and women in vulnerable communities in countries such as Niger. The communities are chosen based on their fragility due to remoteness, climate change, and post-conflict conditions. This project will help many young girls like Djama realize a much brighter future.
Donate today at ADRA.ca/education
Children with disabilities, children in crisis, and girls face the most hurdles to gaining an education and suffer the sharpest consequences when they miss out. Education for all can help safeguard against violence, abuse, and exploitation, and even reduce vulnerability to natural disasters.