The skirt belongs to her mother, the scarf to a friend. The red necklace was a gift ("My grandma bought it for me from the market — it’s my favorite thing in the world"), and her shoes…well, her shoes are her own — but they’re about to be kicked off and discarded somewhere in the field. As Kusum, 15, scoops up the folds of material in her fingers and runs towards the makeshift photo studio, she stumbles and lands face first in the grass. Her friend, Hasina, makes a small noise and steps forward, but Kusum sits back on her heels and grins. Real life has been suspended for the next six hours, and you can see it all over her face.
Girls in Nepal are forced to grow up fast. Far, far too fast. Countrywide, it’s believed 41 per cent of all weddings take place to child brides, but in the time-frozen Terai regions bordering India, that figure may be even higher — local experts believe more than two thirds of teenage girls may be married off before they turn 18. School is dropped and swapped for motherhood, and aspirations buried: dreams tucked to one side as a deeply patriarchal culture reminds every woman, time and time again, that she doesn’t have the right to choose her own future.
Today, that changes, for a moment — and it’s why Kusum is in her (freshly-grass-stained) costume. As part of an ongoing photographic project created by 32-year-old Vincent Tremeau, and an international campaign to end child marriage by the UNFPA, we’re asking teenage girls from agronomic Kapilvastu to dress up like what they’d like to be when they grow up — if we took prospective husbands out of the equation. Entitled "One Day I Will," the aim is to highlight the limitless potential of young women and illustrate the strength of their ambition.
That, and allow them to be teenagers again — at least for six hours of a single day.
Ahead, meet ten teens from the region and discover the futures they're dreaming about.
Join the UNFPA and DFID’s campaign to end child marriage all over the world at www.unfpa.org #EndChildMarriage.