Neema, aged 13, lives with her mother and four siblings in Lengijave ward in Arusha District, Northern Tanzania. As with many Maasai families, Neema’s father left the house two years ago to work in Nairobi.
After schools were closed in March 2020, Neema spent time at home helping her mother with household chores, like fetching water and firewood, and cleaning. During this time, Neema’s uncle and local elders starting planning for Neema to marry a 49-year old man. When her mother protested she was beaten by the elders.
Once Neema returned to school, she received child rights and life-skills education through her Child-to-Child Club. Neema was brave enough to report her uncle’s plans to her teacher who then followed up with her local Violence Against Women and Children Committee, trained by Ace Africa. The committee members alerted police who arrested Neema’s uncle and the elders responsible. They then signed an agreement to protect Neema and her siblings and allowed her to continue her education.
Ace Africa staff and the committee members continue to raise awareness amongst the community and monitor the family to protect Neema from any challenges in the future. Today, Neema is progressing well in her studies and acts as an ambassador to other girls on the importance of reporting early marriage cases.
Ace Africa has been working since 2015 to strengthen child protection services for children in Arusha District, and increase awareness of child rights amongst children, community members and local leaders. In the past year, Ace has seen a steady increase in early marriage cases. With the generous support of The Angus Lawson Memorial Trust and RenaissanceRE, Ace’s team were able to respond, refer children to essentials services and provide counselling support – helping 698 children like Neema to a safe and healthy future.