Child, early and forced marriage is widespread in Cameroon. More than 1 in 3 girls in Cameroon are married before they turn 18 with variations across regions, in the North 73% of girls marry as children as opposed to 13% in the Littoral province. Lack of education is strongly linked to the prevalence of child marraige in the country, with 79% of women aged 20-24 with no education and 45% with just primary education being married by 18. Moreover, like many other countries, those that are forced to marry early are those from the poorest families, girls from the poorest 20% of families are 6.5 times more likely to marry before 18. The Cameroon government in 2016 introduced a new penal code aiming to end the pratice of child marriage, with Section 356 criminalising forced marriage.
Lamana was 15 years old when she was forced to marry a man she did not know. Her husband would not allow her to leave the house and beat her daily. One day, after a particularly bad beating, Lamana left. With the help of Plan International, she is now returning to school to study computer science.
The marriage – it didn’t go well. Each time he wanted to make love to me he would beat me. He wouldn’t allow me to leave the house. I felt so depressed that I tried to take my own life.
My dad was very sad but he didn’t want me to leave the marriage because of what people would think about our family. But one day my husband beat me very badly. I was nighttime, so I waited until the next morning and at dawn I packed up all my things and left the house of my husband.
Before I got married I had a memory full of many things. But then all I could think of was what happened to me during the marriage. I needed to start something new again.
Being back at school has been very important. It’s allowed me to build confidence again.
My father has changed a lot after my experience. Now if I’m running late to class he’s the one reminding me to get to school. He says “don’t think about marriage, think about finishing school instead”. It’s changed my thinking too. It makes me think I can change my life now.
Narrative provided by Plan International