Life as a woman here is tough. There are many challenges to be faced and not many forums that give voice to women who feel marginalised and vulnerable in a patriarchal society.
I heard a story of a woman told in a salon this week. When asked if forced and early marriage still takes place there was resounding agreement amongst all the women there, all of which who had been subject to one or the other or both.
A young girl of only sixteen was married to a man of her parents choosing. Within a year she gave birth to her first child but suffered complications for months afterwards as her young body was not ready for childbirth. Two painful years later she gave birth to a second child, but still feared her husband and dreaded intimacy.
Living in a remote village she relied on her husband for everything. She needed money from him to go to the market, to collect water, to leave the house. She required his permission for every movement she made.
Then after seven years of marriage she was allowed to visit her parents in the capital. As soon as she stepped into the city she noticed a change, felt a freedom she had not known before. After two blissful months she returned to the village, with a new perspective on life. Her eyes had been opened to a different way of living.
She found her husband had taken a second, younger wife. She was 16 too. Shocked and upset she took her two children and left, returning to the capital city.
She is now 28. The same age as me.
Today she tels her story in the salon, determined to protect her two daughters. She will never let them suffer as she did. Her eldest daughter now aged 12 is reaching the traditional age for marriage. But her mother won’t let this happen. She knows only too well the pain that will cause. This is a new generation, with a new perspective, and a hope for a brighter and better future.