From girls who speak up against child marriage, men who take a stand for girls’ rights, and traditional leaders who are joining the movement to end child marriage, here are some of the stories that moved us in 2013:
Alem, the woman helping former child brides
Married at 10, Alem found empowerment through education many years after her marriage. She founded The Former Child Wives Foundation to help women who were married as children overcome the trauma and difficulties of child marriage.
“The act of speaking out can make a huge difference. I tell former child wives to come out and speak up.
“There is no shame in being married as a child” I say, ‘It was never your choice’”
"The wedding busters"
Meet Shompti, a young woman who defends children’s rights. She’s part of the wedding busters, a group of youngsters in Bangladesh who are committed to turning their communities into child marriage free-zones.
One marriage at a time, they challenge the belief that girls’ destiny is to marry.
The religious leader rallying against child marriage in Zambia
Chief Nzamana governs Mfumbeni, a kingdom of about 325 villages in the Eastern part of Zambia.
A few years ago, he decided that the welfare of his people would not improve as long as child marriage persisted:
“Child marriage is a tradition here indeed, but I am determined to put an end to it. I simply don’t think it is God’s wish that girls should suffer.”
Mereso, the child bride turned activist
Mereso, from Tanzania. Married at 13, she is now a leader working with World YWCA to advocate against child marriage in her community.
“Those of us who believe in the power of girls, who have seen what they can do when they have options, we need to tell everyone we can.
“We need to teach girls that it’s OK to say no to marrying before they are ready, and that there are places they can go if they have to run away. […] Change is possible when we believe in each other. I am living proof.”
Mohammad, the child rights activist in Afghanistan
Protecting girls’ rights in Afghanistan, a country ranked as one of the most dangerous places in the world for women to live, comes with many risks.
Mohammad Yousef told us about the challenges of trying to end child marriage in Afghanistan.
“When people put themselves in the place of a girl who marries really young, and imagine the family responsibilities they must take on, that’s when they realise and understand the burden of early marriage. That’s when they start to change their mind.”
The girl whose ambition was stronger than tradition
Maimuna, from Nigeria, recalls how her father supported her wish to stay in school.
“One day after I completed primary school, my father asked my cousins and my brothers and sisters what plans we had for the future. I was sure that I didn’t want marriage yet so I spoke out.
“I told him I wanted to continue my studies to university level. He was impressed by my ambitious response and gave his word to support me even though we didn’t have the money”.
The maths teacher who advocates against child marriage in Morocco
Mohamad teaches mathematics to primary school children in rural Morocco. Passionate about girls’ education, he has joined Fondation YTTO, a women’s rights organisation, in their drive to end child marriage in Morocco.
“Women and girls are not machines, just meant to sew or bear children. They deserve an education, the chance to be more.”
Zakia, the runaway child bride
Zakia, 17, from Afghanistan found refuge at Women for Afghan Women’s shelter after running away from a child marriage.
“I was forced to marry a man who was 45, I didn’t want to marry him.”
When she refused, her father and her brother attacked her and left her for dead.
Find out how Women for Afghan Women is helping girls like Zakia.
What were YOUR favourite stories this year? Tell us in the comments.
In the time it has taken to read this article 3 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