Why are 15-year-old girls still getting married?
by Laila Ait Oujamaa
This summer, I volunteered at a camp in Tidili, a rural village about 110 Kilometers North of Ouarzazate. The 10-day camp was organized by Development and Education Association. I worked with more than 200 kids between ages of 8 and 16.
During the camp, I connected with Hijiba Zaghlol, a 16-year-old girl whose father didn’t allow her to go to school. Hijiba told me that she went to school when her father wasn’t at home. Her father wants her to get married because he believes that marriage is her destiny. Her father tells her going to school is a waste of time. Her father often tells her that she can learn about how to care for her home and husband if she stays at home.
I can’t believe that in 2012 girls are still struggling to get an education. Morocco’s constitution says every child is entitled to an education. As long as there is a school in a village, no child should be barred from attending.
I consider myself lucky because my father, an illiterate man, has always supported my education. I do have an edge over Hajiba because I live in a city–Ouarzazate. We have lots of elementary, middle and high schools as well as a university and other institutions of higher learning. I am impressed that Hajiba has been able to do so well in school though she has missed so much school. She told me that she’s the first in her class.
Hajiba is worried that she would end up like her friend, Malika. Malika got married last year to a Moroccan man who lives in France. She was 15. Like Hajiba, Malika’s father also did not allow her to go to school.
Hajiba said her friend is having a hard time in France because she doesn’t speak French. She just stays in the house. What is the purpose of living in a developed country when a young girl can’t develop herself?
My fear is that a lot of girls from the villages around Morocco will end up like Malika or Hajiba. At the camp, we did a short film about girls who are forced to marry. Hajiba played the role of “Sphia,” a 15-year-old girl who went mad because she was forced to marry a man who lives in France. Sphia’s parents thought her life would be better if she got married. They figured a Moroccan man living in France would give her a better life.
This is the fate of so many rural girls whose families don’t see the value in education. We need to make more effort to sensitize people in rural areas about the importance of education. The government should enforce the law regarding education. Mudawana law says that 18 is the legal age for marriage. Why are 15-year-old girls still getting married? The government needs to enforce the law by prosecuting parents who don’t follow the law.