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“My Girl Narrowly Escapes Early Marriage” – Fatou Nget

Fatou Nget feeding her Birds

Fatou Nget, a native of Fass Omar Sawo, Upper Niumi District, North Bank Region of The Gambia, is a single mother of 5 children (2 boys and 3 girls). Fatou is 43 years old, and since the demise of her husband, she has been struggling to take care of the children. Before ActionAid’s support, due to extreme poverty, she opted to give her 12-year-old daughter's (Tabara) hand in marriage to ease her family's financial responsibilities. 

Fatou has been struggling to put food on the table for her family since she lost her husband through the cold hand of death nine years ago, leaving her with five children. This has left Fatou with no choice but to sacrifice her elder daughter’s education for marriage to reduce her financial burden. 

Thanks to ActionAid intervention, Fatou abandoned her plan of marrying her daughter off because she can now afford to take care of her family and their school expenses. 

After being supported with a grant of D36,900, together with 18 other women within the region of North Bank, CRR North, and CRR South benefitted from the support, and each received the same amount. Fatou did not hesitate to start the poultry business because she had limited livelihood options. 

Fatou used the money to buy 150 birds and poultry, feeds, and materials to start her poultry business, but her first attempt was not too good to remember. After a few months into her business, Fatou lost all her 150 birds through bird flu.  After reporting the incident to ActionAid, they felt very sympathetic to her situation and got an additional stimulus package of D50,000 from the same project. All these supports were preceded by poultry management training and entrepreneurship training. 

Determine more than ever, Fatou put all her energy into making the poultry business successful, today she is a proud owner of two poultry houses with a capacity of 200 and 150 birds respectively. She is one of the biggest suppliers of chicken within her community.    

“I am one of the biggest suppliers of chicken in our area today, I was consistent throughout”.  

Before the support, Fatou’s only income was through petty trading (food vendor) and subsistence farming, before this life-changing support knocked on her door. 

“My only source of income was through petty trading during the dry season, while farming during the rainy season. This is what I have been engaged in until one day my community was asked to identify a poor single mother to benefit from ActionAid support. I was sitting in my compound and a man came to say I am identified to benefit from this project. But, with a condition to build a house immediately, I was able to build a poultry house within 2 weeks , and then I was given the cheque to buy the birds.”

While explaining her story, Fatou was in tears, she said:

“This was the beginning of the ending to my struggle as I started to put the correct food on the table for my children. 

At present Fatou has opened a bank account and made a savings of D26, 000 with the supersonic microfinance bank. 

“Poverty has driven me crazy until I wanted to sacrifice my daughter just to ensure taking care of the other 4 children becomes easy. It was never my wish for my children to suffer but I had no option but to give out my one and only Tabara who could be my saviour tomorrow when she gets the required education. I was doomed as My Girl Narrowly Escape from Early Marriage.

Tabara the survivor said: “It makes me think of my responsibility in the house of marriage at the age of 12 years. What I should do and not do becomes my main problem, and I don’t want to go against the wishes of my mother because I love her. I want to make her proud and happy but going back to school was a dream come through for me. I was imagining what to do, what I would not do, and how I would cope. I kept thinking about this, but thanks to Allah, I was saved by ActionAid’s intervention in helping my mother to have a source of income to take care of us and our education.”

A student of Sare Marie Dobo Lower Basic School, Tabara's classmate, said: “I was in psychological trauma when I heard the news that my friend was going for marriage. But our prayers were accepted when we heard that the plan had failed.”

Tabara’s teacher (Mr. B Jobe) said he was not aware of the decision of Tabara’s mother but suspected something and while he was thinking of a solution, then ActionAid came to the mother’s aid.  The teacher said, “It will be a great loss to remove such an intelligent student from school for marriage at a very early age.”

Now that Tabara is safe from early marriage, she needs the support of everyone to ensure she pursues her dream of becoming what she wants in the future.