We collect stories from around the world. These stories are authentic, raw, and unapologetic. They are emotional. They are stories not often told. We hope their stories of strength will spark necessary conversations about child marriage and, most importantly, change these practices for the betterment of women everywhere.
" If I hadn’t got married, maybe I would have become a nurse. But since I got married and left school, I couldn’t follow my dream. "
" I wasn’t sure in the beginning if I wanted this. In the end it wasn’t my decision; everyone convinced me. The family decided this was best. "
" When I was studying in the 9th class, I suddenly got a message that my wedding has been fixed for August 15, 2012. I felt like my dreams had been shattered. My father is very poor. That's why he felt if I got married early, then I will ease the way for my four younger sisters. "
" 12 year old Suria started going to a DFID funded safe space last year and is part of the Adolescent Girls Empowerment Programme - an empowerment programme that involves weekly girls group meetings with training on health, life skills and financial education, a voucher for health services, and a girl-friendly savings account. "
" Yalemwork was married when she was just 3 years old but has since become a key advocate for ending child marriage in her community. The UK funded Finote Hiwot programme runs community discussions about early marriage in her village which has resulted in many girls like Yalemwork escaping child marriage. "
" Taketu was married at 14, which is the average age for marriage where she lives in Ethiopia. She didn’t know the man she was forced to marry until the wedding day. Girl Hub are working in the region with policy makers, donors and partners in the private sector to ensure that girls like Taketu are at the heart of the development agenda in Ethiopia. "
" Education is one of the strongest factors in whether a girl will be forced into early marriage or not. Thanks to grants made available to targeted households, girls like Bayush and her friends have been able to stay in school and avoid child marriage. "
" Phillimon is the village headman in Chamuka, Zambia and works with paralegals, traditional chiefs and the Community Crime Prevention Unit to take action on preventing early marriages from taking place in the community. "
For the full story, read Child Marriage: 6 beautiful stories of hope by Caroline Dollman
" Life is like a guitar. It can play happiness and sadness. You have to listen to both. When I see my situation --- my forced engagement, my school, my community -- I tolerate everything and say to myself that if a person can get an education they can go on to be successful in all aspects of life. "
" [Forced marriage] means they lose their future. They stop education. They lose their hope for living. And many of them are exposed to rape and domestic violence. This is not a life. It has to change. Girls are girls. Not wives. And it can be changed. "
" Recently I spoke to a school friend who told me he was going to engineering college. The news left me feeling ashamed and pitiful. If our parents had not forced us to marry at such a young age, our lives would be so different. I would have liked to have gone to engineering school. If we were allowed to finish our educations, [my wife] and I would have learned about family planning. Maybe I would have gone to college. Forcing children to marry doesn’t just push them deeper into poverty and threaten their health. It crushes their ambitions—whether they are girls or boys. "
" One of the reasons my parents couldn’t force me into getting married was that I knew my religion. And in [Islam], it explicitly says that any marriage that is forced is null and void. And there have been cases in our tradition in which a girl has been married without her consent. And she went to the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and asked him, ‘My parents forced me into marriage. Am I a married woman?’ And he said that marriage was not accepted. "
" Although I knew of the consequences of an early marriage, I still ended up getting married at 14 because my parents are extremely poor. At the time of the wedding, I was very nervous. I didn’t know my husband – even now I don’t know his age. I think he’s around 25 and he works in sales. I didn't want to move into his house. I remember crying a lot. Everyone around me somehow convinced me though. "
" I have to do this because this is not me speaking, this is the people who wanted to tell the world what they want to say. When I was 9 years old I saw my friend's mother publicly executed. Her crime was watching a Hollywood movie. When I was four years old, I was warned by my mother not to even whisper - the birds and the mice could hear me. I admit it: I thought the North Korean dictator could read my mind. "
" I still don't feel ready to be a mother because I didn’t expect to have a child now. Before I was pregnant, I was in the sixth grade. I wanted to become a chef and work in town. Then I met a boy who was in the ninth grade. We didn’t have a relationship, we only met about five times – that’s all. I was scared when I found out I was pregnant. When my parents knew about it, they brought me to my husband's house and just left me. I didn’t want to go there but they forced me to marry him. "
" I had to marry my cousin. My grandmother has taken care of me since I was young, so I felt I had to please her. I am not happy. I now have a 6-month old daughter. I had a dream of studying to become a teacher. I would have liked that. "
" Photojournalist Daro Sulakauri grew up in Georgia and remembers one of her classmates getting married when they were both only 12. "I had this disturbed feelings in a way", she remembers. "I felt like something was wrong. But I didn't understand what it was." "
" I was comfortable and happy in Syria because our country is heaven. But when war started, it was destroyed. We would go to school, study, go on a break, play, joke. We did everything. But the situation is bad in Syria and I had to be protected. I wanted to be a painter. This was my dream. But Syria is destroyed and that dream won't be fulfilled. "
" When I heard it wasn't happening, that she had reconsidered my marriage, I felt so happy that I shouted out and thanked God for calling off my marriage. I want to be a teacher and there are a lot of poor children like me who want to study. I feel like instead of beating them up, if they are loved, they'll understand the subject more. "
" Nobody will dare to remove my little sisters from school. Everyone used to think I was a nasty, disrespectful girl. But now they realize that school is a good option. I will show them what I can do with my life. "
" A good girl should be silent. A good girl should not talk about her future. A good girl should listen to her family even if they say you have to marry with him, or him, or him. So a good girl means you should be like a dog—everyone can play with you. "
" It happened during Christmas break. My father told my school that I had died. Even if he hadn't, I would have been forced to leave when I got pregnant because that was the law at the time. My family received a bride price from my husband and then he took me away to become one of his wives. He beat me regularly, and so I fled back to my village. But my father and brother told me the price had been paid, this was no longer my home, I had to return. "
" Several girls there had set themselves on fire. I didn't understand why they would do that. As a Westerner, as someone who just hadn't had anything personal in my life that was so bad that I would want to do that, and then I met this young girl, Marzia. She was 15 years old and turned out, she had been married at the age of nine. She had set herself on fire because she broke her husband's television set and obviously was so fearful of reaction by him or the family that she decided to set herself on fire, and really that's a suicide attempt. "
" I was being faced with being shunned by God and by my family, so I thought it was probably a good idea to accept this arrangement. When they give you two choices, and one has serious repercussions and the other one has praise, that's not actually a choice. I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea. In my journal, I wrote, This is me giving up on all of my dreams. "
" I was 16 when I was forced to marry a stranger and move from the United Arab Emirates to Canada. Over the next decade, I was isolated, humiliated and assaulted. The whole time, I was planning my escape . "
" The man who I am going to marry is so ugly. He is fat and looks older than my father. I can’t stand the thought that he is going to touch me, that he will be my husband. I cry often and beg my mother and father not to force me. This ring that he has given me, I want to tear it off all the time. Every time I touch it, I think about how my life is going to be over. I stopped going to school in sixth grade because of the war. They bombed my school, and we moved. I’ve never returned to a classroom, but I miss everything about it. I can only think how unfair it is -- I’ve never asked for much in my life. I want there to be food on the table and I want to be able to go to school. But not even that is possible. I need someone who can save me from my family. "
" Naila Amin was an American teenager who wore pink velour suits and smoked cigarettes. She had a contagious, loud laugh, and envisioned herself as a police officer when she grew up. Fast forward four months, Naila found herself trapped as a 15-year-old wife in Pakistan. Ten days after her forced marriage, she rebelled by running for her life. "
" I want to spread the message that child marriage must be stopped and tell people about the consequences for young brides. I might have died on the day I gave birth. No one deserves to go through what I experienced. More fathers need to know this so they do not marry off their daughters early. "