It looks like you are using an out of date browser.
Please update your browser in order to use this website.

News  › 
Top News Teenage survivor of forced marriage becomes a role model in her community

Teenage survivor of forced marriage becomes a role model in her community

A survivor of forced marriage and forced sexual exploitation says she has been given “a second chance at life”.

Ritah* was aged just 15 when her father forced her to marry without her consent. Trapped in a marriage against her will, Ritah became pregnant and gave birth to two children.

In Uganda where Ritah lives, harmful socio-cultural norms can perpetuate child marriage and teenage pregnancies. A member of our team said: “Ritah was a victim of these negative social and cultural norms. Faced with an unjust family system and limited resources, this young mother of two found herself trapped in commercial sexual exploitation in one of Kampala’s slums.”

Hope for Justice’s outreach team first found Ritah back in 2020, living on the streets.

A photo taken by one of our outreach workers showing children sleeping in sacks on the streets of Kampala

Ritah was brought into the care of one of our Lighthouses – safe havens for children who have been, or who are at risk of being, exploited.

She said later: “Forced into marriage at the age of 15, I bore two beautiful girls from the abusive relationship. Never again shall I sell my body to feed my children.”

An estimated 22 million people are living in forced marriages, according to the latest global estimates. The report by the International Labour Organization, Walk Free and IOM states: “These 22 million are people who were forced to marry at any time in their life, without their consent, and who are still alive and living with their partner. Women and girls make up 14.9 million of this total.”

At our Lighthouse, Ritah took part in life skills training, catch-up education and received trauma-informed care. A member of our staff said: “At our Lighthouse, Ritah discovered a new path forward that turned her state of exploitation into an opportunity for growth and education. She began to learn about herself, discovering newfound passions and skills that empowered her.”

Ritah enrolled for an apprenticeship and began training as a hairdresser. When she had completed her training, she was supported to start her own business and to leave her time in commercial sexual exploitation far behind her.

She is now a role model to many young mothers in the community. Ritah has taken a lead on peer education and joined community networks, which led to an opportunity for her to receive a bursary for further education.

This financial support let Ritah resume secondary school and get good results at her recent exams. Her next step is upper secondary school, for her advanced level education certificate.

She said: “Thanks to Hope for Justice! You gave me a second chance – a chance to rewrite my story of abuse and exploitation by offering me a fresh opportunity for life. Today, I am an empowered survivor of human trafficking, showcasing potential and proving to all my peers that past abuse and exploitation do not define our future.”

*Name changed to protect identity of the survivor

young girl