Caroline Banda is 19 years old and lives in Yohane town in Malawi. She has a one year old son, Yankho. Her father reluctantly allowed her to marry at the age of 16 after floods destroyed his farmland and he was struggling to support his seven children.
“My name is Caroline Banda and I am 19. I got married at the age of 16. I was the one who went and told my parents that I wanted to get married. My parents insisted that I was too young to get married. But I insisted and went on to get married.
“I used to go to school with my friends. My friends used to go around with boys, so I also started going around with boys.
“But what also made me start going around with boys are problems here at home. I was going to school on an empty stomach and when I came back there was still no food.
“My family are farmers but we are unable to produce enough food to support ourselves because of the dry spells.
“Sometimes, for three years consecutively, I’ve seen that the family was unable to harvest enough.
“We plant maize it is stunted and because of the dry spells mice are destroying the maize field.
“My parents used to harvest as many as ten 50 kg bags of maize. But now we can only manage to harvest 20 kg of maize in the whole growing season.
“My parents believe the soil has been degraded because of the floods. The soil is not the one on which they used to grow. Maybe it has come from somewhere else and that is why we are failing to harvest enough.
“Because of the problems I was facing here at home, I decided on my own to go and get married. I used to see my friends getting married and I thought getting married was a solution to my problems.
“I had no knowledge about marriage, but I insisted in getting married because I just wanted to move away from my parents and the problems I was facing at home.
“I liked my husband the very first day I saw him. I loved him the first time I saw him. I didn’t ask for his age, and he never told me. There wasn’t any ceremony for the marriage.
“The first day of the marriage, everything went on well. We made love on the first day of our marriage. At first things were going well. My husband was able to support the family. But then things just changed. His mother called for a meeting where we discussed these changes. He insisted said he was no longer interested in me and I had to go home.
“My husband stopped providing food for the family. And I was struggling because I was staying without food. He started telling me to go back to my parents because he wasn’t happy, he was not willing to keep me home. So I decided to go back home.
“My parents didn’t talk to me in a vary good way when I came back. They reminded me that they didn’t want me to get married. They reminded me what they told me before I insisted in getting married. That day was a bad day for me.
“They accepted me back because I am their daughter. But every time we have a small misunderstanding they keep reminding me of how much I insisted in getting married.
“I am now still facing the same problems I was facing before I got married. I first go to the farm. When I come back I do household chores. Washing plates, cooking or bathing the kids at home.
“I regret that I got married in the first place. Now my future is in shambles. Had I known what marriage would be like, I would not have gone along with it.
“Had it been that I had gone to school, I think I wouldn’t be in this kind of problems. Some days we go without food.
“I am sure that without these extreme weather conditions, my problems would have been avoided. I did what I did because we were lacking food at home. And even now the food is still lacking. My parents, my siblings, me and now my child… the food is not enough for us all. If the weather was fine without any problems the situation would have been different.”
The father’s story
“My name is Steven Banda and I am 53 years old.
“I told her not to get married because she was too young. She is still my daughter so I will give her another chance. If she wishes to go back to school she can do so and stay with me here.
“I thought she was not get married until she was 17 or 18 or later.
“We used to get enough food, but because of the changes in the weather we are unable to harvest enough to feed the whole family.
“The poor harvest is a result of some years of flooding. The flooding has washed away all our plants. And some years it is because of the dry spells. The rain that comes is insufficient for the survival of the crops. And that is what is making life difficult.
“I don’t know why the climate has changed. Everything that happens is in the power of God. God is in control and knows everything. I am not sure the weather condition will come back to normal. I don’t believe it will change.”