Frontline Stories

The Cinderella from Mozambique

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In a far away, long ago kingdom lived a poor young girl, enslaved and in rags. Under the cruel hostility of her mischievous stepmother and her two jealous stepsisters, she had been mistreated and forced to work as a scullery maid for her own family. She is the very well-known Disney princess – Cinderella. And as we all know, Cinderella’s fairy godmother came just in time to sprinkle some magic upon poor Cinderella and to turn her life “downside up” by sending her to the royal ball. While Prince Charming later fell deeply in love with Cinderella and their fairy tale went on, we all live in the reality and we sure know that reality is everything but fairy tales and fantasies.

Joaninha from Mozambique, just like Cinderella, is a 15-year-old girl experiencing animosity from her stepmother and was coerced to take up childcare and household responsibilities. Joaninha was mistreated and worse, treated as housemaids. Yet, just as we thought that Cinderella’s stepmother was already unrealistically malicious, the worst was yet to come…… Joaninha’s stepmother even attempted to sell Joaninha as a child bride and insisted on her marriage merely for an insignificant dowry. While Cinderella was lucky enough to ultimately find the love of her life, Prince Charming, Joaninha was struck by the harsh reality and forced by the circumstances of life to get married to a complete stranger. “I got married because my situation was tough…… not for love,” Joaninha says as she recalls her undesired marriage.

In response to the overwhelming number of child marriage cases, World Vision worked in partnership with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate early and forced marriages by empowering local church authorities to drive change in the society. One of Cinderella’s famous lines says, “Be kind, have courage and always believe in a little magic.” Pastor João Maquite, a faith leader, attended World Vision’s Child Protection Training using the Celebrating Family Model. It aims to support families as being places that allow children to experience the love of God by addressing beliefs, convictions and cultures that contribute to harmful attitudes, norms, values and practices of raising children. This was that “little magic”. He was able to become Joaninha’s very own “fairy”, turning Joaninha’s dreams into reality. Pastor Maquite battled fiercely to rid Joaninha of her marriage and to take Joaninha from her despicable stepmother’s care. Fortunately, with the support of World Vision and the government of Mozambique, Joaninha was freed. “It is a great victory. After all these battles, we were able to prevent the marriage and return her to a family and school environment,” says Pastor Maquite with an air of relief. Returning to school, Joaninha will start sixth grade and can go on to pursue her dream of becoming an English teacher in the future. Pastor Maquite recognised that the training offered by World Vision was crucial to his heroic stance in this case. “If I had not had the training, it would have been difficult to face the situation because it was kind of an attack. I had the courage because it was not long after being prepared by World Vision.”

If Joaninha was Cinderella in real life and Pastor Maquite a “fairy” to her, then World Vision’s training programme would be the “magical powers” all fairies must be equipped with to fight the evil and the unjust. Alongside this achievement, World Vision and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation allowed more than 7,000 children to play in the Child Friendly Spaces where they were monitored and kept safe. This partnership was also able to reach nearly 10,000 people directly. In the future, we would like to equip as many “fairies” with the unique magical strengths to help the millions and millions of Cinderellas in our world transform from mistreated house servants into aspiring and independent young ladies.


Published on 25 September 2020

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