Like any happy mother, 21-year-old Berna Akwang beams with obvious joy as she makes funny faces and speaks happily to her one-year-old daughter, Morgoth.
The daughter is named after a youth group made up of reformed cattle rustlers, comprised of young men and women in Karamoja, who have against all odds fought the tradition of child marriages. Without DGF’s support to the Public Affairs Centre (PAC), the organization that trained the reformed cattle rustlers to conduct Civic Education, Berna’s life would have been very different.
The Karamojong, who hail from North-Eastern Uganda, hold onto cultural values even though some of them contravene human rights. Parents with the interest of acquiring animals (cattle, sheep and goats) as bride price still marry off young girls to older men. In their tradition, animals are considered a sign of wealth and family prestige.
Berna Akwang, from Kaloi village in Moroto District, was a victim of this traditional practice. At the age of only 12, she was married off to a 65-year-old man. For nearly 8 years Berna endured the torment of a forced marriage. Then the Morgoth Youth Group came to their village, conducting Civic Education on human rights, a subject she had never heard about before.
Armed with the information she got, Berna ran to the group for support and advice on how she could get out of her forced marriage. The group offered her advice and linked her to a human rights body. They also got involved in mediation with her parents, until she secured her freedom. Today, Berna is married to a man of her choice with whom she has a daughter and her happiness knows no limits.