From school bench to marriage bed

Nuori tyttö katsoo kameraan.

Child marriage refers to the marriage of a minor to either an adult or another minor. Quickly, without warning, and unprepared. Since underage marriages are illegal, weddings usually take place without prior warning In the darkness of night.

Parents — or grandparents — agree to give a girl in marriage. Often it is a complete stranger to a completely unknown man from another village.

When I returned home from school, dad told me I would get married. – Jameela, 17

In this way, the news won’t reach the police or anyone else. The wedding celebration may not be big, since there’s no time to tell everyone. The guest list is short and even friends and schoolmates may not know about their friend’s wedding.

The next day, she didn’t come to school anymore. – Nabitha, 14

It means that the girl who was still in school during the day, will be a bride in the evening. Getting married means many changes for a young girl. She

is forced to leave her own family and home when she moves to the man’s village. Everything familiar and safe disappears. Instead of a schoolgirl, she becomes a bride whose duty is to take care of the home and her husband. Both things about which the girl has very little knowledge, if at all.

I was scared because I didn’t understand much. – Rikta, married at the age of 14

In many cases, going to school stops there. Dreams of a profession disappear. Teachers report that they are powerless when it comes to their students’ wedding celebrations. When the celebration is held in secret at two o’clock at night, the teacher can no longer intervene.

In one night, the girl’s whole life changes completely: the dreams of a schoolgirl are crushed, games and dreams are left behind, and the girl has to become an adult woman. She should be a wife and a mother.