by LAURA HILL
As a girl I dreamed of moving to the city, going to university, travelling the world, landing the perfect job and marrying Mr Right at a fairytale wedding. I had a scrapbook filled with cut-out wedding dresses from the newspaper and my best friend and I would spend hours flicking through second-hand bridal magazines from the hairdressers, while discussing who would be our bridesmaids.
While I was dreaming about arriving at the church in a Rolls Royce, millions of girls my age had little or no choice about when and who they would marry.
That was 15 years ago, and tragically the unjust practice of child marriage still happens today. In fact, every year 10 million girls are forced into marriage before their 18th birthday and in the time that it takes you to read this post 110 girls will have become child brides – often to men twice their age – condemning them to a life of poverty and injustice.
[To commemorate International Day of the Girl Child this year, photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair teamed up with National Geographic to create a series of photos depicting girls as young as five years old being married off to middle-aged men in countries like India, Yemen and Ethiopia. Take a look:
All images from the Daily Mail.]
Aid agencies warn that child marriage is, without exception, the biggest challenge to girls’ development and it’s not only girls who suffer. Child marriage perpetuates poverty by cutting short a girl’s education and livelihood opportunities, keeping her poor. Alarmingly, if nothing is done to stop child marriage, 100 million girls will become child brides in the next decade.