On her wedding day in the Cameroonian village of Baoliwol, Mairamou refused to dress up. She had never met the man she was about to wed, and her parents had told her nothing about sex. She was afraid it would be violent.
"They forced me to marry him; I didn't want to. If I had consented, I would, of course, have put on makeup; I would, of course, have been very happy — but because it wasn’t like that, I just went," she remembered.
She was only 15 when she was married off to her father's friend, a man nearly three times her age. Like many child brides around the world
, that meant school was over for Mairamou, who goes only by her first name.
"When I was studying, I dreamed of becoming a woman mayor, and of having lots of diplomas. Going to university, that was my dream," she told Refinery29. "I finished fifth grade, but then my father said that that was the age to get married."
After the wedding, Mairamou was taken to live with her husband, far away from friends and family. As the youngest of the man's three wives, she was expected to do the majority of the housework.
"I prepared food. I washed dishes, I swept the house. All of it. I also washed my husband’s clothes. It was that way because I didn’t have any children. I was exhausted," she said.
Mairamou said her husband beat her every day that she refused to have sex with him.
"I was scared of him. Because if he wanted to have sex with me, violently — I became afraid," she said. "I calculated the time of prayers. He left [for the mosque] and I ran."
With only the clothes on her back, she escaped to a friend's house and stayed there for the night. But she realized she would need to find other allies if she was going to successfully leave her husband for good.
Ahead, 27-year-old Mairamou shares with Refinery29 her story of courage and resilience. She spoke with us in New York before traveling to speak out against child marriage around the world as part of the 2015 Girl Summit DC
.This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Photo: Courtesy of International Women's Health Coalition.