Mothers who were forced into early marriage by their parents have challenged government and human rights agencies to make laws to curb the vice.
Speaking during the launch of End Child Marriage campaign by World Vision in Amuria District on Thursday, Ms Agnes Kabonesa, now aged 20, narrated how her parents forced her into an early and abusive marriage.
She urged leaders in Teso sub-region to team up with civil society to lobby for punitive laws to protect the girl child from such abuse.
“When it became difficult for my mother to provide sanitary pads for me in 2008, she told me to find someone who could give them to me. As a child, then in Senior Two, I did as she asked. Later, she prepared me for marriage which became difficult,” Ms Kabonesa narrated.
She said she conceived but her husband could not give the support her mother had anticipated.
“I toiled in gardens to earn a living despite being pregnant at 15,” Ms Kabonesa said.
She added that her husband did not care for her during labour and unfortunately the baby died.
“I opted out of this marriage, but my mother wanted me to return to it. Thanks to World Vision which brought me out of this, counselled me, put me back in school. I am now waiting for my Senior Six examination results,” she said.
Ms Kabonesa said her relationship with her mother deteriorated since she left the man. She added that her mother accused her of betrayal because her husband demanded the livestock he paid to her family as bride price.
“I prayed to God that one day she would reconcile with me. After World Vision counsellors explained to her, she changed her attitude and now appreciates me as her child,” Kabonesa said amid tears.
Ms Jane Akello, another victim of early child marriage, blames society for the vice. She said society views a girl child as a source of wealth.
Mr James Kaahwa, the programmes manager World Vision for Eastern Region, advised girls to report such cases of forced early marriages to the NGO’s local offices.
The Amuria situation is not an isolated one. In February, the Sembabule District education officer blamed the high rate of school dropouts in the district to early marriages. He said 278 pupils out of the registered 4,039 did not sit PLE.