By Netsai Marova
In pain, I penned the poem below for my little sister, Anna Machaya who has made international news for her unfortunate death while giving birth at an apostolic church shrine in Manicaland.
Such a young and innocent life lost because of an abusive religious practice that brazenly solemnises the commodifying and rape of young children in the name of marriage.
For nine months, Anna was pregnant and the cult, instead of reporting her supposed husband to the police for sex with a minor as well as marrying the minor against the law, chose to legitimise the illicit union all in the name of an arranged marriage.
Had Anna been taken to a hospital like Karanda, instead of a clueless shrine, her young life would not have been cut short.
The demonic practice of child marriage should be uprooted. I feel horrified to put the words ‘child’ and ‘marriage’ in the same sentence; a child, for crying out loud, cannot be married. She can only be raped!
Here is my poem.
I am Memory, but you might know me as Anna.
I am a child but cannibals feast on me like manna.
Little girls, we don’t grow in botanical gardens, but we are flowers too.
Little souls, we have no protector. So, old men can marry more than two,
They pluck us while we are green, before we bloom like the Jacaranda,
They use no protector plus, yet they refuse to send us to Karanda.
These ravenous grey haired men come to us in their white garments,
They are toothless but they bite, see black lists in police departments.
They are wolves in sheep’s clothing, but they claim to be soft as wool.
Their shrine was visited by a crocodile and its hatchlings, that’s not cool.
They continue to feast on zondo, vegetables and potatoes,
While my young body lies in the morgue, a very cool mortuary
They parceled out my underage sister, she still has little toes.
Justice comes like a tortoise, this will be another obituary.
I am Anna, but you might know me as Memory.
Children can’t be married, keep this in memory.
Celebrated author and feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once noted: “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.
We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man.
Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important.”
It is out of these social, economic and political myths that a girl child continues to be dehumanised and forced into marriage like a slave in different religious sects in our motherland. The girl child is sacrificed because the authorities fear to lose votes in the next election.
Because of the silence of the ruling government, girls are parceled out like bags of potatoes.
While we commend the arrest of the man who molested and caused the death of 15-year-old Anna Machaya together with her devious parents, it is important that we take a step further as a nation and confront the structural problems and everyday struggles.
GBV and continual rape of the girl child in different religious sects disguised as arranged marriages must be banned. We cannot succeed as a nation when half of us are held back by harmful cultural and social practices that oppress and suppress their aspirations.
We need to shed the tethers of conventional wisdom. Anna was supposed to be alive, and be in school, like the kids of the ruling elites.
As a girl child who has suffered political violence and brutality, l call upon our sisters around the world to be brave as we fight the scourge of child marriage, and to embrace the strength within themselves to realise their full potential.
I equally call upon men to be cognisant of the fact that educating a girl child is not just good for the girl, but for the broader community and society. The future of our world is only as bright as the future of our girls. When a girl’s future is bleak like that of Anna Machaya, then we will keep living in a dark world.
A wholesome look into the religious, socio-economic and political factors behind the continual deprivation and dehumanization of a girl child’s rights must be made, and a working solution must be found which basically is the total empowerment of a girl child.
Graca Machel a celebrated women and child rights activist encourage us that “We should be respectful but we must also have the courage to stop harmful practices that impoverish girls, women and their communities.”
Rest in power Anna Machaya, the world was cruel to you, but millions of voices put your violator behind bars. For your sake, we won’t rest until child marriage is relegated to pages of history like cannibalism.