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The end of a marriage offers a teen hope for a better future

Aminata,* 16, escapes an early, forced marriage in Burkina Faso

By Patrice Zongo, CCFC communications manager, Burkina Faso

Aminata’s* future was determined before she took her first breath. Promised to be married before she was born, the 16-year-old’s fate was sealed, until two years ago when she escaped her marital home.

According to custom in Aminata’s village in Burkina Faso, a man has the right to offer his eldest daughter as a gift. So while still in her mother’s womb, she was promised to one of her father’s best friends.

Her betrothed was impatient. After Aminata’s 15th birthday, he began pressuring his future father-in-law to let him take his bride home. He didn’t want to risk losing a potential wife to abduction, a common threat in the eastern area, where girls are frequently snatched for early, forced marriages. As the pressure mounted, Aminata’s father gave his consent to avoid being held responsible for the potential kidnapping of his promised daughter.

Married life was not easy — Aminata cried without comfort and tried unsuccessfully to fend off her husband’s sexual advances, often being raped and physically abused. One day she’d had enough and ran away. “I was worth more than a gift,” she says emphatically. “That’s why I fled from my husband’s house.” Her in-laws, parents and friends searched for her for five days.

Luckily, the local child-protection network — and CCFC local partner, Eglise Evangélique de la Société Internationale Missionnaire — took the case, and Aminata was found. After a long and hard battle — as some rural customs aren’t in line with law — Aminata was liberated from her husband. She was placed with a family, and, although she can visit her parents, it’s safer for her to live in foster care where she’s learning to weave.

The struggle to avoid early, forced marriage in the region continues. In fact, between January and October 2015, the local child-protection network handled just half of the 21 early marriage cases reported by the local Social Action Office. Thankfully, Aminata is celebrating a new future, with a promising career as a weaver on the horizon. And, she can proudly choose a husband when she’s ready.

* The name has been changed to protect the teen's identity.