Angeline was only 14 when she was first confronted with the injustice of child marriage. Now as an adult and director of Girls Not Brides member Spark READ, she is determined to empower girls in Zimbabwe by putting them at the centre of change in their communities.
Why Spark READ?
Angeline was a child when she found out she was to become the second wife of her sister’s husband. He showered Angeline with gifts and encouraged her to visit the church sect that he belonged to. The Apostolic sect encourages men to have multiple wives.
Angeline refused to go down this path. She decided to stop visiting her brother-in-law and narrowly avoided her own child marriage. This experience shaped Angeline. Determined to take a stand against an injustice faced by 1 out of 3 Zimbabwean girls, she is now a powerful advocate against child marriage.
Growing up, Angeline volunteered with girls’ empowerment organisations before deciding to establish her own: SPARK Read. The name reflects Angeline’s ambitions, to Spark Resilience, Empowerment, Activism and, the Development of girls.
Community girls’ clubs
Spark READ puts girls at the centre of change by encouraging them to attend community girls’ clubs. When girls first join, Angeline explains what child marriage is and how getting married affects their health, education and opportunities.
Girls can advocate for their own rights and change the attitudes of their parents and community leaders. As long as they have the knowledge and skills to do so. Using education entertainment, Angeline teaches girls how to speak out against child marriage. Through interactive poems, plays and dance, girls learn to connect and engage with members of their community and campaign for change.
The ripple effect
Spark READ runs a mentorship programme to build girls’ confidence, leadership and their ability to speak in public. With these skills girls go on to mentor others and become ambassadors against child marriage within their schools, churches and communities, creating a ripple effect across Zimbabwe.
For example, Rejoice, one of the girls Angeline works with, first attended the community girls’ club and now teaches other girls what she has learnt at her church Teen Fellowship group.
Working with families and communities
It’s not just girls that Angeline works with. She feels strongly that communities themselves play an important role in ending child marriage. Often girls are taken out of school and married off, unchallenged by members of the community who are reluctant to get involved in other families affairs. To counter this, Spark READ runs workshops for parents and families teaching them about the dangers of child marriage and the other options available. She has also started educating young boys so they can become advocates of change:
“The girls that come to Spark READ are now actively involved in engaging other young people and the leaders in their communities. Through their efforts they are addressing child marriage in many ways and are making a real difference on the ground.”
Angeline’s approach works! Read Mary’s story
Mary reached out to Angeline for help when her grandmother began talking about marrying her off because she could no longer afford to send her to school. Angeline went to visit Mary and her grandmother to talk to them about the dangers of child marriage and discuss other options for the family. After the visit she raised money to help Mary’s grandmother start a small business. With the new business off the ground and money coming in, Mary’s grandmother has been able to keep Mary in school.
We would not be able to shine a light on Angeline’s efforts to end child marriage without the generous support of organisations like The Ikea Foundation.
This story relates to Goal C “Communities” of Girls Not Brides’ 2017-2020 strategy. This goal is about ensuring efforts to engage communities, families and girls are supported and highlighted. Find out more.
This blog was originally published in October 2016.
In the time it has taken to read this article 39 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds