Child marriage can be difficult to talk about. It can raise questions about traditions, gender inequality and religion. And the numbers are huge. 15 million girls each year are affected by child marriage around the world. But how do you relate to such large numbers, and how do you make those individual girl’s stories come alive?
Well, a growing number of civil society organisations are using comic books to do just that. Easy to read and with colourful pictures, these comics are reaching new audiences with educational messages about why child marriage is harmful and why it needs to stop. Here are some great examples from around the world.
Team Muhafiz and the child raiders take on child marriage in Pakistan
When Safiya doesn’t show up for football training one day, her coach knows something is up. Luckily Team Muhafiz is there to make sure she pursues her passion for football, not marriage. Part of a human rights series, this issue of “Team Muhafiz” addresses the practice of Vani, where girls are married as part of punishment for a crime committed by a male relative.
The comic is already starting to make a difference in Pakistan. One 14-year old girl in Karachi said: "In my community, I have seen quite a few girls in our neighbourhood getting married at early age. I want to study and the Team Muhafiz comic book actually was helpful for me to convince my father to pursue my studies. He now has asked my uncles to let my cousins complete their education too."
Cash cow, a graphic novel on child marriage in Tanzania
In “Cash cow”, 14-year-old Grace tells the story of how she was sold into marriage for twelve cows. Potentially distressing to some readers, this graphic novel by a Ugandan artist and American writer sheds light on the poverty and violence caused by child marriage. Read Grace’s story.
Daria, a Roma woman’s journey
When Daria married at age 15, her parents used the money from her dowry to make ends meet. When faced with the same fate for her daughter years later, Daria makes a bold move and runs away. This comic by UNDP Eurasia sheds a light on how discrimination and poverty perpetuate child marriage over several generations. Read Daria's story.
Early marriage in Nepal after the earthquake
Sapana is just 15 when her boyfriend, Pasang, asks her to marry him and help out with his elderly mother. She had planned on training to be a nurse but after the earthquakes she fears her parents will marry her off anyway. After reaching out to a local nurse and teacher, Sapana and Pasang begin to understand just how risky child marriage can be. Her Turn partnered with Oxfam, Women for Human Rights and People in Need to make this Nepali comic on the issue of ‘love marriage’ in Nepal. Read the comic (in Nepali).
The Breadwinner, a story of economic empowerment
After losing his job, Olu Abbey feels he has no choice but to marry his daughter to settle debt. Unwilling to accept this injustice, his wife enrols in a business and agriculture course, becoming the household breadwinner. But Olu Abbey struggles to reconcile his wife’s newfound ambition with decades of traditional gender roles.
Developed by Alliances for Africa, “The Breadwinner” tackles many issues affecting women and girls in Nigeria today, from child marriage and sexual violence to economic empowerment. Read it here.
In the time it has taken to read this article 35 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds