There is a wedding in my neighbourhood. My friend is getting married, and I played with her in our neighbourhood until yesterday. She is 15 years old and her future husband turned 16 just a few days ago.
Being only human, the guests are rejoicing, playing, singing and cheering, and our bride and groom are shyly looking at each other.
Tonight, when the music quietens down, and the drunk guests return to their homes, their first wedding night will begin and the life of these juvenile newlyweds will change from the following morning. Their childhood, their education and their carefreeness will end. Real life will begin, full of life’s problems and temptations.
Certainly, the juvenile newlyweds are not to blame. The blame lies with their parents who arranged that marriage without the couple’s knowledge or approval. Custom is custom, especially among us Roma – the underage girl was exchanged for money – the girl was sold! No one even thought about whether the newlyweds would be happy. No one even asks; it is important to obey this ancient custom. They forgot who the bride was and who the groom was. As if these things are important!
At that moment I thought – what if I ended up like my friend? I ran home to ask my parents if they would marry me off like that, whether they would sell me like that as well.
My parents' reply calmed me down. They explained to me that we were all different and that not all people in the world were the same. Then I remembered that my parents had earlier refused a suitor who had come to ask for my hand in marriage to a complete stranger. They wanted their child to choose her own path and supported me to continue my education. I am proud of my parents.
I shall keep studying hard to set an example for other children from the Roma community, to tell them that we all have the same rights and that we can have our own childhood just like the other children in this world.
Rosalinda Toska is a first-grade student in Podgorica. She is a member of the first team of UNICEF young reporters with whom she promotes media literacy in Montenegro, within the campaign "Let's choose what we watch". She is also active in the Roma community where she promotes Roma rights to educate, develop, and participate in creating an environment with equal opportunities for everyone