Tell us, how did you enter this field?
Loveness: Through being a child bride and after knowing that was not the life I would want any other girl to live in, I knew I had to find my voice for the benefit of everyone else who could never find their voice. I was determined to make sure my daughter and my sister would never become victims. I also wonder how child marriage is affecting the children born in these relationships mentally.
Can you tell us about some of the misconceptions (if any) that may exist when it comes to mental health and child marriage?
Loveness: Africans think that mental illness and mental diseases are associated with spiritual elements, rather than environmental or rather natural scientific elements, to the extent that a victim of child marriage is not seen as disturbed or needing psycho-social support.
Could you tell us why you are interested in the mental health effects of child marriage?
Loveness: I felt neglected as a survivor of child marriage and knew that I also needed psycho-social support/counselling, as I know I am disturbed psychologically due to child marriage. There are stages that a person has to go through and if those stages are not lived by every person, one is bound to be psychologically disturbed.
I personally realised from experience that most times I am unable to make decisions that a girl of my age can easily make, because they have not been exposed to marriage, the burden (of child marriage), and everything associated by such a marriage. I also understand that if I don’t get help, I might even affect the growth of my children to become proper members of society or even expose them to my predicament.
My first question when I saw your topic, was could my lack of motivation, confusion, forgetfulness, self-blame, lack of enthusiasm about life, headaches etc. be effects of child marriage? This made me even more interested, as I knew if I could realise that the relationship is affecting me, what of the millions of girls, who have not got a moment to blink to think if there is anything wrong with them, also realized?
How do you think we could raise awareness on the topic of mental health consequences of child marriage in general?
Loveness: Media, nationwide SMS (messaging), use of national and international holidays, e.g Youth day, women's day. Empowering the people that are at the core (of communities), like Vendors, who seem to know how to disseminate information even faster and people listen to them.
How do you think other people could contribute and help make a difference?
Loveness: Acknowledgement of professional personnel to work with children, child marriage victims and children born in child marriages.
How do you think we could encourage future research in this field?
Loveness: I think research may go in the direction of finding solutions from the victims of child marriage including their children. I believe there is a certain level of knowledge what this world needs in order to end child marriage and reduce the mental health effects. Victims of child marriage have more answers than we realise and if their knowledge and experience if captured wisely will feed into ending child marriage.
We may have diplomatic meetings and use diplomatic language but truthfully, in survivor’s everyday language and in their individual perspectives, they know what went wrong and could have been done right. I am yet to read research that captures all that raw data so that it can be amplified.
I have seen fear dripping down in a person when asked to speak. [Survivors] need an environment which encourages them to speak their opinions without feeling inferior.