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15 million girls worldwide are married before they're 18 years old

In developing countries, one in three girls is married before the age of 18 and one in nine before the age of 15.

An under-age newly-married couple who refused to be identified walk together after a mass marriage at Chachoda village in Rajgarh town, India. Even though child marriages are illegal in India, they are still held particularly in small poverty stricken villages.
An under-age newly-married couple who refused to be identified walk together after a mass marriage at Chachoda village in Rajgarh town, India. Even though child marriages are illegal in India, they are still held particularly in small poverty stricken villages.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

A REPORT WHICH surveyed the number of young girls who are married before they reach adulthood has found that 15 million girls under the age of 18 marry every year – with one in nine girls living in developed countries married by the age of 15.

The report includes the account of Tamrea from Ethiopia, who was married, pregnant and abandoned – at 12 years old.

“I was given to a husband at 12. I wasn’t happy to get married at that age, but my father said there was nobody to look after me since my mum wasn’t around. I wasn’t happy. I was crying. I wasn’t able to get used to what marriage was.

“The family of the boy came to my house and asked if he could marry me. He was physically big. I didn’t know how old he was.

When I became pregnant my husband left me. When I had my baby I didn’t go to a health centre, I gave birth at home. I went to health centre when I was pregnant, but I wasn’t able to go back. Labour took me six days.
When I think back I have mixed feelings. I feel sad, but after all that suffering, I saw my baby and felt happy. I feel so much anger. When I hear someone is getting married I give counselling. I don’t want anyone to go through what I have.

“If a girl goes to school she can have a better life. My friends go to school and I feel really bad.”

Here is a short look at the findings of the report, called Every Last Girl:

• Each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18. In developing countries one in three girls is married before the age of 18 and one in nine before the age of 15.
• In Dominican Republic, 37% of women aged 20–24 are married before 18 years.
• In most countries, girls from poor families are more likely to be married early than their
richer peers. In Nigeria, 40% of the poorest girls are married by age 15 compared to 3% of the richest girls.
• Girls in particular regions of some countries are disproportionately affected. In Ethiopia more than half of girls in the Amhara, BenishangulGumuz and Afar regions marry by age 18 compared to 12% in Addis Ababa.
• The majority of the 25 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are considered fragile states or at high risk of natural disaster.

In her foreword to the report, Rebeca Zakayo Gyumi, founder and executive director
of Msichana Initiative, Tanzania made the following remarks:

“In January 2016, when I decided to stand up on behalf of thousands of young girls in my country and pursue a legal case to challenge the Marriage Act – which allowed girls as young as 14 to get married – I didn’t do it because it was easy.

It wasn’t even just to save girls who were fleeing the plight of child marriage and forced to stay far from home. I stood up because of the multiplier effect that is unleashed in educating a girl child, in allowing a girl child to take control of her own life and achieve her dreams.

“I saw the ripple effect of investing in a girl child, because a girl doesn’t win alone – everybody does.”

Read: The Government is finally going to outlaw forced marriages (but no one knows exactly how many take place in Ireland)

Read: Teenager beaten unconscious with hurleys two weeks after coming to Ireland

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