Parents and family give out young girls into marriage in order to escape Boko Haram.
During a Boko Haram raid on the border town of Krawa Maffa, four years ago, the Nigerian militants abducted a girl, whose name was gotten as Julie.
Julie, which is not her real name, was abducted four years ago when she was just thirteen years old. At 17, Julie still remembers when the Islamic group asked her to be one of their wives.
“One of them told me we are going into the bush, I said No, I am a little girl what am I going to do into the bush. He said you will become our wife. I said No, please leave me, I want to stay with my mother, you killed my father and you want to take me into the bush, leave me, I want to stay with my grandmother”, Julie narrated.
Julie had escaped from the Boko Haram during a clash with Cameroon’s military and returned to her village.
The militant Boko Haram group frequently invaded her village. For fear that the militant would, however, come for her, Julie’s uncle married her to a 40 years old man, to be his third wife.
“I have a lot of difficulties. I had a lot of farms before they took our land, I had goats. They came, took everything and destroyed the houses, now I have nothing. I wanted my niece to be safe”, Julie’s uncle said.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, a third of Cameroonian girls along the border with Nigeria get married before the age of eighteen. UNICEF says this rate has jumped to 60%.
Reasons advanced for early marriages.
While culture also plays a role in the reason of early marriages in this area, parents say another reason is to protect their girls from the Islamic group, Boko Haram.
In response to parents’ opinions, the Cameroon Ministry of Women Empowerment and the Family says parents should not use Boko Haram as an excuse for child marriage when they can send their children out to school.
“Whether you are in a secure area, in pacify areas or in a peaceful area, the ideal from the child is to go to school, and not in marriage. Parents must no longer use the pretense that the area is insecure”, says Elie Nguele, an official at the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Family.
Two years ago Julie was helped by a neighbor who told Julie’s story about her forced marriage to the Association for the Promotion of Autonomy and Rights if Girls and Women.