“Then came the day when everything changed. I had started in 6th grade and was determined to go to middle school but my father said that I should not go to school the next day. I would never go to school again.
Father said he was 35 years old and that he had paid to marry me.
A few days later, my stepmother gave me the dress I would wear the day Salum came to fetch me. The dress was lovely… My stepmother said that I looked beautiful and grown up.
Once we got into our new home, he stopped talking. He took off my dress and laid me down on the mattress. What happened afterwards hurt and felt weird and wrong. I was just sad.
He started coming home later in the evenings, often drunk. Then he beat me and forced me to have sex again and again. I wanted to leave him but I had nowhere to go.”
This is the story of Tanzania, a 15-year-old child bride from Tanzania.
Every three seconds, one girl gets married. This makes 12 million child marriages just in the span of a year. In Niger, three in four girls become married before they turn 18. Moreover, due to the economic hardship from COVID-19, the progress made to reduce child marriage is expected to reverse by 25 years.
Child marriage is a complex issue that stems from gender inequality and affects girls disproportionately. In many cases, child brides drop out of school to get married and begin the life of a housewife. This not only affects a girl’s education, but is also harmful to her mental and physical wellbeing, financial prospect as well as the health of her own child. This has a lifelong impact on the child’s potential, causing cycles of poverty and domestic violence.
Girls, in societies with child marriage as social norm, are often ‘sold’ to a husband wh is often significantly older and are forced to carry out housework and childcare. Furthermore, maltreatment is common when the married girl gives birth to a female infant.
Child marriage is a human rights violation and it needs to end. There is not a single solution to this devastating issue, however there are small steps that can be taken by all of us to decrease child marriage. Firstly we need to stop valuing girls like objects and give young women the ability to control choose what she wants. Education plays a crucial role in allowing girls to make infomed decisions for themselves as well as the next generation. We need to stop treating child marriage as a cultural norm, but rather a violation of girl’s rights. Together, we can stop girls from exploitation and provide them with a life of opportunity and potential.