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In pictures: African champions against child marriage

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image copyrightStephanie Sinclair/Too Young to Wed
image captionThe UN's children's fund Unicef says marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights. Yet among women aged 20 to 24 worldwide, one in four were child brides. Award-winning photographer Stephanie Sinclair has been documenting some of the people in Africa campaigning for the rights of girls at risk of marriage. Thobeka Madiba Zuma, First Lady of South Africa and Esther Lungu, First Lady of Zambia are among those leading the effort.
image copyrightStephanie Sinclair/Too Young to Wed
image caption"Changing long-standing traditions requires a buy-in from traditional leaders," said Chief Mwenda of Chikankata of the Mazabuka District in Zambia. To shore up support she has pursued a grassroots campaign, recruiting some 400 health workers, teachers and local luminaries to lobby the people of her district against gender-based violence and child marriage.
image copyrightStephanie Sinclair/Too Young to Wed
image captionWhen Josephine Kulea was nine years old, every other week one of her classmates would stop attending school. One by one they were first circumcised and married off to men more than 30 years older than them. Kulea helped create the Samburu Girls Foundation in Samburu county in Kenya, which provides a safe house for girls who have endured FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and forced marriages. “[Our work] is very difficult, because there is no political will or support," said Kulea.
image copyrightStephanie Sinclair/Too Young to Wed
image captionHademine Ould Saleck is a father of eight who was a primary school teacher before he became an imam at a mosque in Mauritania's capital Nouakcott. Arguing that Islamic law protects the physical dignity of children, he convinced his colleagues in 2010 to forbid FGM. "For me...religion is against harmful practices, and all those practises, they are against religion, especially when we don't allow girls to go to school, especially when we force a young girl to get married," said Ould Saleck.
image copyrightStephanie Sinclair/Too Young to Wed
image captionOften the first thought of parents in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) when looking at a newborn is the infant's marriage said Gauthier Luyela, director of the Department of Child Protection at the Ministry of Women, Family and Children. "Especially when she is a girl we say: 'This baby girl, I will marry her. I will find her a husband,'" said Luyela. "And this exists in my tradition. But now today, even parents who live in rural regions, they change their point of view."
image copyrightStephanie Sinclair/Too Young to Wed
image caption"I have a lot of friends who have been victims of child marriage," said Sokona Tounkara, an activist with the Youth Association for Active Citizenship and Democracy in Mali. Her organisation uses radio, television and social media to advocate for child rights and access to reproductive health services and to educate children and parents about child marriage.
image copyrightStephanie Sinclair/Too Young to Wed
image captionZilekha Moctar Diphane is deputy director of Women's Rights and Legislation in Chad. "The challenge is in rural regions, in the countryside," said Diphane. "People, they are still not really conscious about what is happening. We are working on the ground to push them to stop this happening."
image copyrightStephanie Sinclair/Too Young to Wed
image captionRetrieving young girls from forced marriages remains a problem in the Eastern Province says Chief Madzimawe of the Ngoni speaking people in Chipata, Zambia. "They need counselling so that they are integrated back into the community...and are not going to feel as if they are a different species from another planet," said Chief Madzimawe.
image copyrightStephanie Sinclair/Too Young to Wed
image captionIsatou Jeng, founder-member of The Girls' Agenda in The Gambia, became pregnant as a teenager. Her uncles urged her to get married but Jeng's mother insisted that she returned to school - she went on to earn a college degree in political science. "With the work of young womens' rights organisations like mine, we are engaging girls, empowering them to understand the importance of education in their lives - not to get to grade 12 and then decide to get married because that's just the beginning of everything."
image copyrightStephanie Sinclair/Too Young to Wed
image caption"Ending child marriage is not easy and cannot be done overnight," said Dr Haliru Yahaya, emir of Shonga, in Northern Nigeria. "It is a consistent effort from many players and there must be strong political will at all levels of leadership in my country and I provide that leadership." Interviews by Zarina Geloo and Edie Gross with photographs by Stephanie Sinclair/Too Young to Wed

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