We will never forget the look on Stella’s face when she described having no choice but to marry off her 14-year old grand-daughter, Emilida, to keep the other three children in her care alive. Stella’s eyes were heavy. The shame she felt was etched on her face. No choice. What would you do? Save three children or potentially lose four?
Stella’s daughter and son-in-law had died of HIV and Stella had taken on the care of their children. Suddenly, she had four children she couldn’t afford to raise.
Stella’s grand-daughter, Emilida, was married off at 14 to a man twice her age. One day, while Emilida was at the markets, she was approached by two Women’s Empowerment Animators (local volunteer leaders) trained by The Hunger Project. The Animators asked Emilida why she wasn’t at school and why she was so dirty. After confiding in them about her marriage, the Animators and Emilida returned to her Grandmother’s house and spoke to her about the negative impact of child marriage and the importance of education. The group decided that it was time to take action.
They went to the village chief and had Emilida’s marriage annulled.
The Women’s Empowerment Animators empowered Stella with the knowledge and resources she needed to transform her family’s life. Now, Stella farms maize and sells firewood to earn an income. She re-enrolled Emilida in school and is an advocate for girls education. Stella has also become a Women’s Empowerment Animator, so that she can empower other women and girls in her community.
Emilida’s vision is to one day become a teacher so that, she too can empower others through education.
This is not a story of despair. This is a story of hope, courage, transformation and possibility for the future. Leadership is not about having influence or power. Leadership is having a clear vision and having the determination, courage and passion to achieve it.