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"In my whole life, I’ve never felt love."

"Child marriage is a violation of human rights. By 2020, 142 million innocent young girls worldwide will be separated from their friends and family, deprived of an education and put in harm’s way because of child marriage. Together, let us resolve to end the discrimination and poverty that perpetuate this harmful practice. And let us help those who are already married to lead more fulfilling lives. All members of society will benefit when we let girls be girls, not brides."

In many societies, marriage is a celebrated institution signifying a union between two adults and the beginning of their future together. Unfortunately, millions of girls still suffer from a vastly different marriage experience every year. Worldwide, many brides are still children, not even teenagers. So young are some girls that they hold onto their toys during the wedding ceremony. Usually these girls become mothers in their early teens, while they are still children themselves. The practice, though sheathed in tradition, can result in profound negative consequences for the girls, their families and their entire communities. Join us in our mission to protect girls’ rights and end child marriage.

Tehani, age 8; Majed, Age 27; Ghada, Age 8; Saltan, Age 33 (Yemen)
Whenever I saw him, I hid. I hated to see him,” Tehani (in pink) recalls of the early days of her marriage to Majed, when she was 6 and he was 25. The young wife posed for a portrait with former classmate Ghada, also a child bride, outside their home in Hajjah.

"We don’t call a woman beautiful by her looks but by how nicely she takes care of her house and her husband."

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Ghulam, age 11; Faiz, age 40 (Afghanistan)
Ghulam and Faiz, age 40, sit for a portrait in her home prior to their wedding in Afghanistan. According to the women's ministry and women's NGOs, approximately 57 percent of Afghan girls get married before the legal age of 16. Once the girl's father has agreed to the engagement, she is pulled out of school immediately.

Ghulam, age 11 (Afghanistan)
Ghulam plays in the village on the day of her engagement. Removed from school just months earlier, she said she is sad to be getting engaged, as she wanted to be a teacher. Parents sometimes remove their daughters from school to protect them from the possibility of sexual activity outside of wedlock.

"I was given to my husband when I was little and I don’t even remember when I was given because I was so little. It’s my husband who brought me up."

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DESTAYE, AGE 15 (Ethiopia)
Destaye, now 15, intended to continue her schooling, in spite of the teasing she endured from her community. “They used to laugh at me for going to school after marriage,” she said. “But I know the use of school so I don’t care. . . . But people laughing at you makes it more difficult.” After the birth of her son six months ago, however, Destaye no longer had time for classes. “I feel sad because I quit learning,” she said.

DESTAYE, AGE 11 - ADDISU, AGE 23 (Ethiopia)
Addisu and his new bride Destaye are married in a traditional Ethiopian Orthodox wedding in the rural areas outside the city of Gondar, Ethiopia. Community members said that because of his standing as a priest, Addisu’s bride had to be a virgin. This was the reason Destaye was given to him at such a young age.

"I don’t know how children are made. But they get pregnant… They carry it inside their stomach. Then they deliver and it comes out a baby. "

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SURITA, AGE 16 BISHAL, AGE 15 (Nepal)
Bishal accepts gifts from visitors as his new bride, Surita, sits bored at her new home. Here in Nepal, as in many countries, not only girls, but boys too are married young.

SUMEENA, AGE 15 (Nepal)
Sumeena leaves her home to meet her groom, Prakash, 16. The harmful practice of child marriage is common in Nepal. Many Hindu families believe blessings will come upon them if they marry off their girls before their first menstruation.

"In my whole life, I have never felt love."

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RAJANI, AGE 5 (India)
Rajani and her boy groom barely look at each other as they are married in front of the sacred fire. By tradition, the young bride is expected to live at home until puberty, when a second ceremony transfers her to her husband.

RAJANI, AGE 5 (India)
Long after midnight, Rajani is roused from sleep and carried by her uncle to her wedding. Child marriage is illegal in India, so ceremonies are often held in the wee hours of the morning. It becomes a secret the whole village keeps, explained one farmer.

"Child marriage happens because adults believe they have the right to impose marriage upon a child. This denies children, particularly girls, their dignity and the opportunity to make choices that are central to their lives, such as when and whom to marry or when to have children. Choices define us and allow us to realise our potential. Child marriage robs girls of this chance."

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Overview

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Every year, throughout the world, millions of young girls are forced into marriage. Child marriage is outlawed in many countries and international agreements forbid the practice yet this tradition still spans continents, language, religion and caste. Over nearly a decade, photographer Stephanie Sinclair has investigated the phenomenon of child marriage in India, Yemen, Afghanistan, Nepal and Ethiopia. Duration: 10:42 minutes.

Destaye

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Fifteen-year-old Destaye and her husband divide their time between working in the fields and taking care of their 6-month-old baby. At the time of their marriage, when Destaye was age 11, she was still in school and her husband expressed interest in letting her continue her education. Since the birth of their son, however, she has had to fulfill her duties of being a wife and mother exclusively. This short film by Jessica Dimmock examines this young girl’s journey as a child bride in Ethiopia. Duration: 6 minutes.

Rajasthan

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Keshanta, 16, wants to be a teacher. Rajyanti, 17, hopes to become a doctor. Laali, 15, isn’t sure but like her classmates in a rural part of Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan, she is certain she doesn’t want to be a child bride. “My life would be ruined,” said Rajyanti. In India, where 47 percent of girls are married before the age of 18—56 percent in rural communities like the one these girls live in—stories like these are few and far between. But programs aimed at educating and empowering girls are beginning to bear fruit, giving these girls the confidence to say “no” to early marriage. A short film by Stephanie Sinclair and Jessica Dimmock.

National Geographic

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Photographer Stephanie Sinclair and writer Cynthia Gorney investigate the world of prearranged child marriage, where girls as young as five are forced to wed.

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Every 2 seconds a young girl is forced into marriage. Be part of the generation that changes that. Join our community. End child marriage once and for all!

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