Our staff writer Kari Costanza was at a community group meeting under a big tree in Tanzania when the principal of a nearby school brought a 6-year-old girl to them. She had run away from home … her father was planning to sell her as a wife.
This community group stood together and said "No!" See how we can be greater than child marriage, together.
It was a bigger meeting than usual under the big tree in Mbuyuni village, Tanzania.
Mbuyuni is named for the incredible baobab — a spectacular tree that looks as if it was plucked from the earth and turned upside down, its roots reaching skyward. But strangely, there are no baobabs in Mbuyuni anymore. Other great big trees stand in for meetings.
This meeting was big. World Vision is setting up savings groups in Mbuyuni. People are learning to harvest water by digging water pans. They’re raising poultry in pens, rather than letting roaming chickens get snatched away by eagles. Mbuyuni is a happening place. Men and women from a nearby village had come to Mbuyuni to see how they could get in on the action.
Then, everything came to a screeching halt.
The principal from the school near the big tree brought a little girl to the meeting. She must have been 6, maybe 7. She was tiny and as distraught a little girl as anyone had ever seen. “She was crying as if she had just escaped from the jaws of a lion,” said one villager.
The lion was her father.
That morning, her father had decided to sell her to an older man — as a wife. Becoming his wife wouldn’t happen immediately. The little girl would be his servant until she turned 13 or so, the age when many girls in Tanzania become women. Then she would become his wife — one of many. She would bear children, fetch water, fetch firewood, cook, clean, and bear more children until she got old and died.
The selling price for a 6-year-old: two cows and a bucket of cheap local brew.
But instead of allowing herself to live a future of awful, the little girl ran — straight to school. Her principal, not knowing what to do, looked outside and saw the big meeting under the big tree. That’s where he brought her.
At the meeting it was decided: One of the women would take in the little girl to protect and care for her. The police would be called and her father would be arrested. He’d already done the same thing with other daughters. It was time for this to stop. You can’t progress in a regressive society.
The little girl would be safe.
You might not think there’s much power in a meeting. But all over the globe, World Vision gathers people to meet daily, plan for their futures, and focus on their most precious citizens — their children. In these meetings, friendships are formed, ideas are exchanged, and strategies are set.
And sometimes, like last Friday, little girls are rescued from the jaws of lions because they had someplace to run — to a motivated, caring people — gathered under a big tree.
A sponsored child is a protected child: less likely to be trafficked, forced to work, or sold into an early marriage. Help protect a child today: Sponsor a child in Tanzania!