Voices of child brides around the world
1 February 2018
  • Child marriage is common; it takes place in every corner of the world. In Nicaragua, Irayda ran away from an abusive home and got married at age 14. “Before I was 15, I was already pregnant,” she said. © UNFPA Nicaragua

  • Millions of girls are married off every year. In Myanmar, this girl was married off while still a teenager. © UNFPA Myanmar/Yenny Gamming

  • Child marriage is largely driven by poverty and gender inequality. Fanny, in Malawi, was married at 17. “This was due to pressure from my parents, who were overwhelmed by the deep poverty we were experiencing, but I was not ready,” she said. ©UNFPA Malawi

  • The practice takes an enormous toll on children. Child brides often drop out of school, limiting their future potential. In Kabul, Leda’s husband forced her to leave the 11th grade. This is her empty classroom chair. © UNFPA Afghanistan

  • The reverse is true as well: Girls who leave school are extremely vulnerable to child marriage. “If I quit my studies, I will be married off immediately,” said Kabita, 16, in Nepal. © UNFPA Nepal/Dhana Bahadur Lamsal

  • Child brides are vulnerable to violence. “They really beat me up, a beating like I had never experienced in my entire life,” said Eunice, in Kenya, describing her forced marriage. She escaped and now, at 16, she is happily in school. Luca Zordan for UNFPA

  • Violence leaves a lasting mark, affecting girls’ physical, emotional and mental well-being. “I wanted to finish my life because of all the torture,” said one girl in Afghanistan, who was a child bride at age 12. These are her shoes. © UNFPA Afghanistan

  • Child brides are often pushed into premature parenthood. “My sister wasn't ready to be a bride at 17,” said Puja, in Nepal. “Her marriage was against her will. Right after her marriage, she became a mother.” © UNFPA Nepal/Dhana Bahadur Lamsal

  • Many become pregnant before their bodies are ready. Pregnancy-related complications are the world’s leading killer of adolescent girls. “I damaged my spine because of this early pregnancy,” said Ameena, in Yemen (second from left), married at 15. © UNFPA

  • Pregnancy also increases the risk of child marriage. In Kenya, Pamela’s father tried to marry her off after she became pregnant. She fled. “If I ever go back home, he will kill me,” she said. But she is happy she escaped. Luca Zordan for UNFPA

  • Boys are married off as well. “I was a child,” said this young man in Yemen, who was married at age 16. His wife was 13. “I could not make my own decisions. My father ordered me to marry, so I got married.” © UNFPA Yemen

  • But empowering youth can help to end this practice. With knowledge about their reproductive health and human rights, young people can take a stand. “If I were married right now, I would not be ready,” said Yuridia, 11, in Mexico. © UNFPA Mexico

  • When they are empowered, girls can pursue dreams bigger than an early marriage. “I am not ready for marriage because I want to continue studying to be a professional,” said Maybelle, 15, in El Salvador. © UNFPA El Salvador

  • Informing children, and their communities, about the harms of child marriage can help mobilize a movement against it. “I think it’s not a good idea for young children to be married,” said Faina, 18. © UNFPA Comoros

  • And families can make better choices. “When I fell pregnant, my mother refused [to have] me go and stay with the boy responsible. I think she made a good decision,” said Edna, 17. “Here at school, you dream of a better future.” © UNFPA Malawi

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