Fatima Mussa

Fatima Mussa is 16 and nine months pregnant. She is the oldest of seven children, six of them girls. She lives in Nataka, in the district of Larde, near the coast in eastern Mozambique.  She married 18-year-old Priorina Manuel Antonio when she was 15. He had offered her father MT 2,000 ($33). The high levels of poverty in the district meant there was no party or gifts for the young couple.

“My name is Fatima Mussa. I am 16 years old. I was studying but I preferred to marry Priorino because my father didn’t have enough money to support my education.

“Priorino came to find me and asked me if we could get married. I told him ‘If you want me, you need to ask permission to my parents’. When he arrived in front of my parents, my father said ‘I would have never considered allowing my daughter to marry now, because she is young.  But she will marry because I don’t have enough money to send her to secondary school.’

“I didn’t want to get married at such a young age, but I didn’t know what to do, since I couldn’t go to school. So I saw an opportunity to marry someone who could improve maybe a little bit my life.

“I really wasn’t happy about marrying Priorino. I had the idea of running away, abandoning my father who was in favour of the marriage, and going to a new city, starting a new life. But I couldn’t, I don’t have any family members in another city who could help me. All my family lives here. So I couldn’t run, I didn’t have anywhere else to go.

“Priorino offered 2,000 meticais to my father. Priorino was my first man. After we got married, he was the one who took my virginity.

“Before I got married, I went through an initiation process. There you learn how to take care of a man. I went through initiation the same year I got married. I was 15 at the time.

“When my father told me I had to get married, I didn’t want to. But I understood his reasons. I had to accept because my father decided so. I married him even if I didn’t want to. I didn’t feel good. Still today, I don’t feel good. I hope that in the future it will be better. But it’s still difficult.

“It’s not that my father wanted me to marry him, but he couldn’t support me to go to secondary school. That’s why I agreed to get married.

“My father accepted because he couldn’t help me to continue my studies. My father lives only on agriculture, but for a while the production was decreasing, because the land did not allow the same production as before

“My father started having problems of production because of the rain. Sometimes, when rain came, it was torrential, and created floods.To reach our land, we have to cross a little river. So because of floods, we couldn’t cross it anymore. And when it stopped, there was drought. It wasn’t the good kind of rain that allows good production.

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“Until 2012, my father was producing well. But since 2013, he started having problems because of the floods. And then the drought problem arrived, killed all the plants and it got worse in 2015.

“Even if we are facing this production decrease, we don’t have a choice, but to continue focusing on agriculture. We don’t have another option.

“We survive somehow. My husband is a farmer. But when we go to the land, we harvest almost nothing. The production is not even enough to feed us. So what he does is cutting some pieces of trees and sells them in another village and gets some money. That is how we buy some fish. We basically get 20 meticais per day.

“I hope that God helps me with the delivery, that everything goes well. And after, I can take care of the baby, and in the future I will still be here. We we still keep trying to survive.”

 

Juan Mussa, 47, father of child bride Fatima Mussa, and Priorino Antonio, 18, her husband.

The father’s story

“I am Juan Mussa. I am 47. I have seven children and Fatima is the oldest.

“I accepted Priorino because I rely on farming. I used to have enough production, but a few years ago, production decreased. And there was a time when I produced almost nothing. So I abandoned that and went to fish hoping that I would improve my living conditions.

“When I first arrived we used to fish a lot. But then, the number of fish diminished. We needed to always go further.  So it didn’t work. When I came back, I found my girl had finished primary school and I couldn’t afford to send her to secondary school. It’s far away, you need more money. So I accepted the marriage because I didn’t have any other source of income or support.

“When Priorino came to ask for her hand, I accepted. There was only one condition: he had to give me 2,000 meticais to formalise the marriage. He accepted.

“I didn’t want to. But I was struggling to feed the family, and I have seven children and she was at that age when she could have started fooling around with boys, even if I told her not to. So this marriage was a solution. That’s why I was open to that.

“People cannot continue to farm where they always used to because the land is not fertile anymore. It is drier and there is less rain. Also, the areas where we could continue to farm have been destroyed by mining. Everything is destroyed.”

The husband’s story

“My name is Priorino Manuel Antonio and I am 18.

“I chose Fatima because I liked her a lot. We didn’t actually have a relationship before the marriage. I had to ask permission to her parents. But I wanted to marry her.
“I didn’t have a lot of money before I got married. I was a farmer. I didn’t have the means to continue studying. But I I lost my father in 2013 and I preferred to get married to a girl who has a family, so that I could have a new family too.

“I regret getting married, I regret the fact that I’m going to become a father because I don’t have the means to support my children and my home. If there was a way, someone who could support me… But I stopped going to school and I don’t have any other possibilities now.”

 

*Fatima gave birth to a son a couple of days after she was interviewed.

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