Maur (L) with the girl
A 16-year-old Malian girl who escaped forced marriage in Mozambique experienced the warmth of Malawi after a Malawian woman picked her up in Blantyre, kept her for several days in Lilongwe and helped raise funds for her air ticket.
It was, however, a bittersweet experience for the Malawian woman who was accused by Malawi Police of kidnapping the child.
The young woman, with the Twitter username @maurdesigns recounted the experience in a thread posted yesterday.
According to Maur, on 29 January this year she was on her way to Lilongwe from school in Blantyre and at Kameza in Blantyre, she decided to pick up people going the same direction. One woman then appeared with a girl and asked that the girl should be dropped in Lilongwe. The woman warned Maur that the girl does not understand Chichewa.
They started off and hours later they reached Lilongwe.
“Dropped everyone off but the girl i drove to Mugg & bean. I asked her is this place okay to drop you off she ddnt respond. Call your relatives..Silence. She then handed me 2 A4 papers this was an air ticket,” Maur tweeted.
She added: “[I] checked and saw she was supposed to be at KIA (Kamuzu International Airport) however her plane wasn’t that day but the 8th February 2022. She then said something in French. That’s when i noticed she speaks no English nor Chichewa but French. I was like no problem google translator.”
With the help of the translator, the girl told Maur that she had nowhere to sleep or spend the next few days while waiting for her flight and that she only had K14,000 cash.
They tried to look for a place for the girl to spend the night but after two hours of searching, Maur took her to her place where she lives with friends.
The next morning at Maur’s home, the teenager narrated her story. She told Maur that she is from Mali and went to Mozambique on 9th January for a holiday at her sister’s house.
The child’s sister is married and both her parents live in Mozambique too but while there, she was surprised to learn that her family had arranged a wedding for her to an old Nigerian man.
The girl refused to get married to the man but they forced her to sleep in a room with him. After the child refused the man’s sexual advances, she was locked in a room but she later managed to escape.
With $100 on her, she managed to travel to Blantyre where she eventually met the woman who helped her board Maur’s vehicle.
“I took her passport and travel documents and realized she is only 16 not 23 as i assumed. I felt so much pain thinking why would your own family treat you like this. Minute i got back from work i called all my friends like you guys are gonna escort me to the police,” Maur tweeted.
She added: “We went to Area 30 [Police] then was referred to 18 [Police]. The officers were kind enough but they said they can’t keep the girl coz the only place she can be staying in ndimusale (a cell). Please get her till tomorrow we will go area 3 there they will give her a place.”
That day, the young woman bought clothes and groceries for the girl and the next day she took her to the social welfare office. After failing to secure a safe place for the girl through the social welfare, Maur decided to continue living with the child as they waited for 8 February.
Later, an officer from the social welfare office took the girl to Immigration Department offices to ensure the child’s details were clear for her to travel. There, it was discovered that her Visa to Mozambique as well as some stamps were not clear.
“On top of that her return air ticket was fake. She needs an air ticket. My world turned up side down. I asked how much around $860. I left work to go get my kid at the travel agency where she was been kept at the time. She was crying the whole time because of the ticket issue,” Maur tweeted.
The time Maur first met the child, she was coming from university. She told the child that she did not have money to buy the ticket but would be able to find people who can help.
The social welfare officer, a lady from the travel agency as well as her friend from Congo provided funds for the ticket but they needed more money.
However, on Friday last week, Maur was told that someone from Mozambique had bought a ticket for the child. It turned out to be a friend of the child’s father.
On Sunday 5th February, the girl finally left Malawi for Ethiopia from where she was expected to fly to Mali.
“[I] watched my little girl leave i was happy and sad at the same time. Ddnt really believe i was gonna miss someone i only talked to using google translator,” said Maur.
On Monday, day after the girl had left, Maur was informed that Police were looking for her on allegations that she had kidnapped the child.
“At 5:00 Monday morning i was called to report to the police in the morning to answer charges a kidnapping. They claimed maybe i had agreed with someone to get her in Addis. I was like I’ve talked to the brother her plane from Addis left at 11:40 And will arrive at 3:40 Mali time,” she tweeted.
Later, Maur received a text that the girl was at home in Mali.
“I was like i need proof I’m video calling you and there was my little girl in Mali at home and happy. I was so happy i informed everyone that the girl was home including the officers and who then said we are sorry for everything madam,” she tweeted.
On Twitter, Malawians have praised Maur for the love she showed to the child.
“beautiful story… you have a good heart!.. More blessings on your way,” one Twitter user said.