POSTED July 7, 2022
Reconnecting child brides to education can offer hope for the future
Meet Khadija who chose to become a child bride, and learn how Children Believe is offering her opportunities for a better tomorrow
By Karen Homer, interim, director, communications with files from Crystal Lee, editorial manager, Canada
Khadija, 16, lost her father in a motorcycle accident in 2019. It left the former sponsored child’s family struggling to survive.
Alina, her mother (pictured, below), has no formal education and supports her six children by farming a small plot of land near their home in Tamale, northern Ghana. Alina recognizes the importance of education and wanted her daughter to finish secondary school, but Khadija was failing.
“I got 80 percent in math, but in other subjects I couldn’t seem to understand or remember what the teacher was saying,” recalls Khadija.
In Ghana, many children in rural areas drop out of school as early as Grade 3, when classes switch from the local language to English. Few parents are literate or speak English, so they can’t help their children with their studies.
Failing in class, Khadija didn’t want to waste her mother’s limited resources on school fees, so she reluctantly dropped out in 2021 to look for a job. Without a school certificate or skills, this proved difficult. Khadija decided to go to Accra, the capital of Ghana, to find work. Never having been out of her village, she braved the eight-hour bus ride to the capital with her older sister.
“I worked on busy streets selling water, but I didn’t earn much money. So, I started washing dishes in a bucket on the curb for street-food vendors. I wanted badly to go back to school, but I knew I couldn’t,” says Khadija.
Several months later, Khadija returned home, unsuccessful in securing a stable income. At that point, she set her sights on becoming a seamstress, a profitable career in Ghana where most women’s clothes are handmade.
So, when Khadija’s boyfriend, Hakim, 21, promised her a sewing machine as a dowry if they wed, her uncle approved the union. Although Khadija was underage, the family patriarch feared his niece would become a single mom if he didn’t give his consent. He hoped access to a sewing machine would help Khadija develop new skills.
Khadija and Hakim were married in February 2022. Khadija is disappointed she still doesn’t have a sewing machine. Hakim, a carpenter’s apprentice, promises he’s saving from his small earnings to buy one. Unable to find a job, Khadija spends her days cooking over a wood fire and doing laundry by hand.
Recently, Khadija met with Children Believe community workers to help her connect with training opportunities.
The team offered to enrol her in an all-expense-paid three-year nationally certified tailoring course that would give her the skills she needs to become a seamstress and make a living. Upon graduation, she would receive a sewing machine. Fearful that she will fail again, Khadija is still deciding whether to sign up.
Her mother remains a positive source of encouragement. “I tell Khadija her life is not over because she got married young,” says Alina. “I want a better life for her than I have. She can still learn and make something of herself.”
Learn more about child marriage — and how you can help reconnect child brides to education — by clicking this link today.
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Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.
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A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.