The sad lullaby

I have been to a plenty of places in my country, Vietnam. The impression that strikes my mind strongly is girls' marital status. 80% of the places I visit, I meet girls under 18 years old who experience two or more years of motherhood. The prospect becomes a little brighter in more developed provinces as girls in their twenties get married without having a job. I feel so bizarre that girls become mothers even before they are turning to women. I can never expect this early marriage practice would obsess me so much that I spend days finding an answer to my question: Early marriage, why? I was shocked to find out that in a study published by UNESCO: ” Early Marriage: an harmful traditional practice”, it is reported that 12% of Vietnamese women get married at exactly 18 years old. More alarmingly, nearly 5% of Vietnamese girls aged 15 to 18 are currently in marital union. Travelling to the west of Nghe An province, it is not hard to catch sight of young girls singing lullaby, cuddling their babies. At first glance one may mistake they are raising their siblings. However, that sad rhythm is for their own children who are at most 14 years their mothers' junior. If one end of the scale involves child marriage, the other is women in their early twenties marriage. While teenage mothers are stripped off of their rightful decision making capability, the young girls passing the 18+ threshold should have been oriented to make judicious choice. I have witnessed a dozens of my cousins and distant relatives who secure a bachelor degree in a university or college just to get married without seeking a job. Young girls under 18 years old with low autonomy in decision making , there are three main primary reasons. Among the ethnic minority located in mountainous area of Vietnam, a depraved custom called “ wife stealing” still exists. It is so rife that this practice becomes a cultural niche rather than a crime. In these far-flung community, puberty and menarche are considered as time of transition to adulthood. Girls reaching this biological threshold means becoming eligible for marriage, regardless of age. Once a girl is abducted by a man, she indisputably becomes his wife whether she likes it or not. In this case, young girls' parents can do nothing but let everything take it course. It is an ironic fact when a girl's future is in a stranger's hand. The second cause for low autonomy in decision making is socio-economic condition. A vast majority of girls are advised or forced to drop out of school because of family's insufficient financial capability. Marriage is an outlet for family burden as financially speaking, parents are no longer responsible for their daughter ‘s material life. The third root of the problem is herd mentality. The fact that dozens of generations get married before 18 years old is considered as a legacy in ethnic minority. Young girls tie the knot as their grandmothers, mothers and peers do so at an early age. This harmful practice fuels an unchangeable social norm to such an extent that a girl is alienating herself from the community if she refuses to get married early. Girls' psychology is tremendously affected by harmful social ideology which brainwashes their marriage propensity. At the other end of the scale standing women whose have high autonomy in decision making, still prefer early marriage propensity even without a job. All my sister-in-law relatives become manual worker, butcher, housewife or online salesman after their marriage. Their monthly income is not stable and sometimes not enough to make both ends meet. I asked them why they don't spend more time improving their skills and prepare themselves for a permanent job before getting married or taking care of their own parents who has raised them all their life just to see them off too early. I asked them why they don't study more because life is so beautiful and there are tons of things to discover. I wish once in their life time they are empowered to stand on their feet, to be hunger for knowledge, to long for discovering this beautiful world instead of getting snowed under with house chores, breastfeeding, sleepless night, unemployment nightmare. I desperately wish they read more books, beautify their souls with music and poem instead of marital burden. I cannot stand the feeling when I see girls in my ages raising their children without being well-prepared mentally and physiologically. I wish they realize they are beautiful, smart and valuable, and they can color their life much more vibrantly if they don't give up self-schooling too soon. I cannot breath when I read news reporting maternal mortality among girls because of unintended pregnancy, abortion, preterm labor. I feel speechless when seeing young girl coping with two children in their arms, if I were them, I could not handle this. If they had better education, if they were treated equally, if their human right was prioritized, their life would be different.

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