Imagine being locked up against your will in a dark room, fed little and with no hope of escape unless you agreed to marry a man you have never met. This was exactly what happened to 17-year-old Ella who lives in the Northern part of Ghana in West Africa. Perhaps more upsetting is that, Ella’s incarceration was done with the full support of her family.
Ella refused to marry, so she was kept locked up until friends and leaders from her girls’ club, assisted by the police, were able to free her.
Nurudeen Mohammed, an Opinion Leader, shares with SheHUB.tv the problems in the Talensi and Nabdan districts in the Northern part of Ghana.
“When somebody is marrying a daughter, after a short period of time they are expected to get some cows – the family receives four cows, four cattle, which is expected as bride price.”
He further explains: “The districts are generally poor by nature so many of the people would want to marry their daughters out early.
Having a daughter is seen as a blessing because they already feel that they have four cows in the bag.”
Ella shares her experience with SheHUB.tv, which she describes as painful and frustrating.
“One day my sister-in-law called me and told me she had a man to give me to marry.”
She firmly refused her sister-in-law’s request: “I said, ‘No, I’m a young girl. I’m attending school. Why should I marry?’”
With her mind set on a career in the military, Ella is working hard to graduate from school and has no intention of getting married at this stage of her life.
Unfortunately, her sister-in-law and mother were not understanding. They tricked her in to visiting her brother’s house, where men were waiting to lock her in a room. She was given an ultimatum – marry or stay locked up.
“They caught me and locked me in a room. I spent four weeks there,” she discloses.
Ella pauses as she shares her story then expresses her profound gratitude to the girls’ club she belongs to.
Luckily for Ella, as a member of the girls’ club, the leaders realised she was missing. They raised the alarm and began looking and searching for her. When the police were involved, Ella was eventually freed.
“If it was not for the club, I now would be married. I would have given birth,” she reflects.
It is a testament to her character and resolve that, she held out in poor conditions for the four weeks it took to free her.
Ella is now back at school and is more determined than ever to complete her studies. However, she still has to live with her family’s anger at her decision.
“Some days I go home, and they won’t give me any food,” she says.
She adds that the club helps by providing her with meals as well as clothing and schoolbooks.
It is not easy for her, but Ella does not regret her choice for a second: “If it was not for the club I now would be married. I would have given birth. It is through the club that I am still here at school.”
Sadly, far too many girls in Ghana do not get this second chance. Some are married off as young as 12 years old, and many become pregnant years before their bodies are ready to cope, causing immense physical, emotional and mental distress.
This isn’t just happening in Ghana, forced marriage is a problem occurring in countless poor communities around the Africa continent and the world at large.
Philip is our Ghanian correspondent who is keen to share your story. To reach him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.