Bright and studious, Balkissa dreams of travelling abroad and studying medicine after she’s finished school. But the future hasn’t always been hopeful for this 19-year-old from Niger’s capital city of Niamey. Her aspirations were almost crushed seven years ago when she was promised to a relative as a child bride. But we stepped in to help her uphold her rights.
When she turned 12, Balkissa’s paternal uncle promised her as a wife to one of her cousins in Nigeria. The cousin had persuaded Balkissa’s uncle to do this by buying him a vehicle and sending him various gifts. In late 2012, the cousin sent the dowry and asked for a date to be set for the wedding. Try as she might to protest that she did not want to marry him, Balkissa’s cousin insisted, pointing out that her uncle had already given his approval.
In 2012, Balkissa contacted our anti-corruption centre and we helped her file a complaint against her uncle with the public prosecutor’s office. The uncle was summoned to appear before the judge and ordered to abandon any idea of the marriage, but two days after the summons, he tried again. The prosecutor then issued a warrant, which resulted in the uncle being arrested and imprisoned. We then put Balkissa in touch with a safe house for women and children. She stayed there until the case had been settled. When he left the prison where he had been held, her uncle agreed to drop his plans for a forced marriage. Balkissa has since been able to continue her studies and is now in her second last year of secondary school.