We’ve spent this morning in the community primary school teaching the children about UK culture. After class, this beautiful little girl came over with her mother; her father is the oldest man in the village who we interviewed yesterday. I found out the girl is only 2 years old. It wasn’t long before the girl was getting pushed about by the older children and so I lifted her up to sit on my knee so she didn’t get hurt. I was talking and singing nursery rhymes with the older children when I suddenly realised the little girl’s head was on my chest and she was fast asleep. Even with all the noise around me she stayed asleep for a good 5-10 minutes even when the school children went inside. It was then that one of the male adults told me I was the baby mother for the day. This was soon followed by how old I am (22) and if I have a baby in the UK. When I said ‘no I didn’t’, there was genuine shock that I have not already had a child.
Later on when we returned after lunch, the little girl noticed me and came running over, tapped my leg until I lifted her up. Eventually her mother came over and with much difficulty due to the fact she didn’t speak English I found out she was 16. The girls around her were 14 with a year old baby and 25 with 2 young children. Again these young women were shocked when I informed them I had no children. Most young girls in the community will be pregnant by the age of 14. This fact shocked me!
I have got to what I think of as still a young age and have neither a husband nor children. I have an education and graduated from university with an LLB. And until today I didn’t realise how lucky I was to have had this choice. Until today I didn’t realise I had made this choice. In the UK I would be seen as the normal but here in Sierra Leone I am seen as the exception.
I know I am fortunate to be able to make a choice of whether I get married, who I marry, whether I have children or not, all by myself and not have any of these decisions forced upon me. However for so many young girls around the world they do not have this luxury.
And the beautiful young girl who fell asleep on my lap is probably one of them.
Julia is now safely back in the UK and is spending a little “time out” no doubt thinking a lot about what she has seen and processing her experiences. We are still catching up with her blogs and have one to go.
If you’d be interested in “Stepping Into The Gap”, go to the CAFOD website at http://www.cafod.org.uk/Education/CAFOD-Gap-year Applications close at the end of March.
This year, our Lent focus is on Sierra Leone, for information on the country and how you can help it’s people, go to http://www.cafod.org.uk/Fundraise/Fundraising-ideas/Lent-for-parishes