Less than half an hour drive through broken road took me to a very small village near Multan, southern region of Punjab in Pakistan. I was standing outside the roughly made three room mud house. Few hens were roaming in the courtyard whereas two goats were grazing in the small paved available garden across the courtyard. Birds sitting on the tree were chirping and that was the constant source of amusement. While I was amusing from all this suddenly a nine years old girl came out from room while holding a doll in her hands. This is “Shazia,” nine years old, after a month she would be among those girls who will become brides in their childhood.
I visited this village to enhance my knowledge and to learn about the married lives of these small girls. My purpose was also to aware myself and learn about the views of the elders of this community regarding this custom and to evaluate the possibilities to change their views and the level of adoption for awareness sessions.
While crossing me Shazia payed regards to me and passed a hesitant shy smile. I looked at her with great concern and offered her a chocolate to gain her trust. I asked about her hobbies, her toys and friends to peel off her hesitation. She told her dream is to become teacher. She was unaware about the concept of marriage. After this short discussion she went outside the home and started playing with her age fellows.
After a short span of time I was being surrounded by the group of females who were victims of child marriage. Jamela, 26, mother of Shazia recalls her marriage day. She was playing with her friends when her mother came and took her home to getting ready. She was told to get ready for participating in some home function.
“I don’t remember what exactly my age was.” said Jamela. “I was too little to become a bride.” She became sad while narrating all this. “My dreams were ruined and all opportunities were demolished due to this ugly custom.” Another woman told. Almost all of them told that they have spent their lives in isolation. They don’t remember how they got pregnant and how they delivered their babies.
Jamela wants her daughter to study. She wants to put all those wishes and dreams to her cart, she was not able to fulfill due to deep rooted ugly customs she cannot stop her daughter to get married and become a bride in her childhood. Shazia is about ten whereas her groom is 21 years old. I was seeing a pain in her eyes for her daughter.
While roaming on the streets of the village I got an opportunity to have some discussion with some of the males and elders of that community. I felt that a few men were against this custom and there was flexibility and adoptability for change in custom. Elders were more rigid whereas young who were also married to small age girls were ready to talk against child marriage.
While returning from this village there was a ray of hope in my eyes. My vision for changing the concept of child marriage was clear. My trip gave me the strength to believe that I am capable and worthy to play my role for changing the mindset of this community. Later I arranged awareness sessions with Jamela and her husband. Both were against the marriage of their daughter and her to be empowered but due to the community pressure they failed to stop the marriage of Shazia.
One thing is clear from my this experience that one day I would be successful in changing the mindset as customs needs time to be changed.