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Her brother and mother were working in South Africa; men who have jobs in that more-prosperous country are seen as good catches, says Muianga, also a child protection coordinator with Plan Mozambique. She was dating the man whom she later married, but says it was not her decision to marry him. If a girl’s parents are absent, marrying her off is an easy way to ensure her financial stability. Her home is a single room like the others in the village, but it has a metal roof instead of thatch, a strong wood door and sturdier walls.
According to a 2013 UNICEF report on Mozambique, children who do not live with their parents because they have died or migrated “are vulnerable in almost all aspects of their lives.”Dulce’s husband, too, works in South Africa, in a shop. She has her own dishes, three cows and nice furniture — all things she lacked before, made possible by her husband’s salary.
She is 17 now, with an easy smile, a smattering of freckles and a toddler. Jorge Zita and his wife, Alice Cuna, subsistence farmers in an isolated village in Gaza province, believe HIV/AIDS and migration have left young girls particularly vulnerable to early pregnancy and marriage.“There are very few older people alive now,” said Zita, a thin and quiet man of 67.
Zita and his wife live in a small village of scattered one-room mud homes with thatch roofs.
HIV/AIDS has devastated the population, especially in rural areas where low levels of education and stigma have contributed to the spread of the deadly disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mozambique has one of the highest HIV rates in the world.
Migration to South Africa — for work in the gold mines, construction and retail — has also contributed to the disease’s spread. In the southern province of Gaza, one in four people between ages 15 and 49 are HIV positive; this is in comparison with the national prevalence of 11.5 percent, which is already among the world’s highest.
After Olinda married and stopped attending school, her baby died.
She spends her days cooking and cleaning; watching her second child, a 1-year-old girl; gathering wood; and hauling water.
“Sometimes, what they do if the girl gets pregnant, they just take her to the house of the man who impregnated her and drop her there at the door and say, ‘OK, she’s yours, take care of her,’ ” says Ximena Andrade, a researcher associated with Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Educational Trust, a women’s-rights organization based in Malawi.
In some cases the girl does not even have to be pregnant.
Ill or absent parents are more likely to marry off their daughters when they become pregnant or take up with boyfriends. Rejected by her mother-in-law she lives with her parents.
Though she would like to return to school, she lacks the paperwork for admission.
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In Mozambique, primary school lasts for seven years, for children ages 6 to 12.