As of today, some 750 million girls and women around the world were married before the age of 18, according to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Child marriage is considered a human rights violation, since it's a major obstacle to sustainable development across the world. The highest rates of child marriage is found in sub-Saharan Africa.
The practice disproportionately impacts girls, though boys are also affected at a lesser degree. According to experts, the practice worsens the cycle of poverty for child brides, blocks them from obtaining an education, and exposes them to many health-related risks as girls who are forced to have children at an early age are more likely to die or face severe complications during childbirth. They're also more vulnerable to sexual violence and domestic abuse than those who are not forced to wed at a young age.
Over the last 15 years, Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair has made it her mission to document the experiences of young girls forced into marriages in order to give them a voice. She also founded the non-profit organisation Too Young To Wed, which aims to protect girls' rights and end child marriage. As part of the organisation's grassroots efforts, they help provide child brides with new opportunities, including offering scholarships so they can pursue an education and helping them attend female empowerment photography workshops.
"I've been most moved by the resilience of these girls. I've met hundreds at this point. They just say — every single one of them, almost without fail, no matter what they've been through — they just say: 'I want to go back to school'," Sinclair told Refinery29. "That's why we're doing what we're doing. We need to empower individual girls, because as it happens, they will have an impact in their communities and that's how change will happen."
Too Young to Wed's Tehani Photo Workshop was named after Tehani, an eight-year-old child bride in Yemen who was unable to escape her marriage. This year, with Canon's support, 18 teen girls who escaped their marriages were brought together for the workshop in Kenya. Through assistance from the Samburu Girls Foundation and Too Young to Wed, the girls are now pursuing their education.
Ahead, a selection of photographs the girls took of each other during Too Young to Wed's workshop. It provides an intimate look at their feelings on being married as children.
Too Young To Wed is holding a print sale until Tuesday November 28th to benefit communities impacted by child marriage. All proceeds will go to grassroots efforts and workshops. You can check the sale out here.