Ivorians Who Married Young Warn Others of Hazards

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Female teens in the countryside of Ivory Coast often leave school to start families with older men. It's a financial strategy that many women here say they have lived to regret.

Many Ivorian women who start a family young encourage girls to stay in school.ABOISSO, Ivory Coast (WOMENSENEWS)--Affoue Yobouet, 17, a mother of two, says she doesn't regret choosing marriage over education. She says marrying an older man, who is more than 30 years her senior, was the best option to attain financial security.

But her older sister, Beatrice Yobouet, makes a scathing attack on the decision.

"I have advised her, but she will not listen," she says. "If for nothing at all, my own life is an example she was supposed to avoid. But she is stubborn and stupid."

Beatrice Yobouet says she has four children and has been abandoned by three men. She says she is now rebuilding her life with her third son's father but wishes she--and her younger sister--had stayed in school.

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But Affoue Yobouet says older men are the best bet for financial security.

"I just go with who can take care of me," Affoue Yobouet says. "I don't mind who he is or what he does so far as my needs are supplied!"

She lives in a house with 30 of her relatives in Koffikro-Affema, a small rural commune in Aboisso, a department in the southeastern corner of Ivory Coast. Her older sister, two aunts, brothers, cousins, their wives and children share a home that has just three bedrooms, a hall and a large porch.

She says she dropped out of school at age 13 because her uncle, who used to pay for her fees and books because her parents died when she was young, couldn't afford for her to continue to junior high school and high school.

Affoue Yobouet says her husband, her younger daughter's father, has many farms and looks very young, even though he is 50. She says his children like her and show her respect and with his help she can also take care of her own children.

"I can now feed my children," she says.

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If anyone questions the value of publicly funded education, this story is the antidote! The same applies to publicly funded heath care. These women's 'marriages' are totally about money and security, they cannot afford to love or trust, they cannot themselves afford a later life education. How can the men in such a culture live with themselves?