Tanzania is a multicultural and multi-religious society with traditional views on sexuality still strong in rural areas. About 21 percent of the country’s young women and older girls allow their parents to choose their husbands. Some of the girls manage to get out of the marriage, but are typically beaten by their parents or husbands when they try to leave.
When at work, Scholastica is well dressed and focused on her job. She appears as happy as many of the other girls at her company, the Association of Radio Maria.
But behind the smile is a young girl struggling to find money, and a lawyer, that she hopes will change her life.
Scholastica Njozi, is one of thousands of Tanzanian girls who get married before the age of 18. Her dreams and ambitions were shattered eight years ago when her family forced her to marry a man she barely knew. Now she has a 7 year-old son to support with the little money she earns from work. At the same time, she is struggling to earn a degree in Business Management. Scholastica must support her family because her husband refuses to provide for them.
“It was my parents’ decision for me to get married soon after I finished my Ordinary level Secondary Education without letting me know before hand. I remember the saddest day of my life came when my father told me that I should get married. I was shocked because I knew that I didn’t have a fiancée at the time. When I tried to ask him questions about the man I am getting married with my father was not very happy, and he told me that I should not worry because he knew the man very well. (He said) I just have to wait for a couple days when the man will come at home and I will see him, and that was the end of discussion.”
Scholastica was frustrated and had no one to confide in; everyone seemed to agree with her father. She tried to talk with relatives only to discover that they had arranged a family gathering to discuss her situation.
“It was a meeting of our extended family, and the main objective was to tell me that they received a letter of introduction of a man who wanted to marry me. This sentence made me cry during the whole meeting pleading and convincing them that I was not ready but no one seemed to understand what I was saying. I tried to talk to my mother but she never wanted to seem be thinking differently from my father.”
She says the only option she thought of was to run away from her family, to her Aunt in Njombe, about 400 kilometers from Scholastica’s hometown, Songea. The trip did not help. Her Aunt sent her home saying that she will never go against her own brother.
Scholastica had to get married.
"It was a hell on earth living with a man I never loved. But I had some hopes of maybe he loved me that is why he came to ask my parents to marry me, so I kept my calm. But the reality was the contrary of what I was thinking. A few days later he started to come home at weird hours, and beating me without good reasons and even cheating on me. When I went to my parents to report the beatings, my parents told me that, that is what it means to be a married woman and so I should take it easy.”
Scholastica has reported the beatings to the elders and even to the church leaders but to no avail. No one wants her to get a separation. The elders from her family think that if she gets separated, the whole family will be shamed for having a daughter with a failed marriage.
Scholastica and her husband moved to Dar Es Salaam, where they found new jobs. However, life has not been as simple as they hoped.
Her husband never bought food, or paid the bills. She left him, and with the money she had from her job, she managed to rent a room for herself and her son. She is also looking for NGOs that could help her file for a divorce; but with little money she cannot afford to this measure.
“I would like to tell all the girls who are in a similar situation to keep fighting for their dreams and not just stay at home waiting for their husbands giving them everything. I am a very curious person, I started learning computer by myself when my husband was at work and the knowledge of computer helped me so much to move forward to reach where I am today. You can not expect that you will get out of that situation without having an independent mind.”
Scholastica currently works as an administrator with an Association that runs the Catholic radio station in Dar Es Salaam, Radio Maria Tanzania. She hopes one day, her diploma in Business management will help her earn enough money to pay for a divorce.
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