Lamana, 17, from Cameroon, was forced to marry when she was just 15 years old.
This is not unusual in the country – on average, more than one in three girls is married before they turn 18 in Cameroon, although prevalence rates vary widely across regions: in the north 73 per cent of girls marry as children, as opposed to 13 per cent in the coastal province.
Lamana is from Yaounde, the capital city. Getting married meant she had to leave school, but this was the least of her troubles.
"The marriage – it didn't go well. Each time my husband wanted to make love to me, he would beat me. He wouldn't allow me to leave the house. I felt so depressed that I tried to take my own life."
"My dad was very sad but he didn't want me to leave the marriage because of what people would think about my family."
"But one day my husband beat me very badly. It was night time, so I waited until the next morning. At dawn I packed up all my things and left my husband's house."
Fleeing her husband and seeking help
Lamana turned to AFHADEV, a local organisation supported by Plan International. Madame Hawaou is the founder of AFHADEV. She says: "Lamana's story is the story of a girl who was forced into marriage against her wishes – and Lamana suffered a lot of violence.
“Plan International taught us to teach people about the importance of education. When a girl is educated she can take control of her own life."
Lack of education is strongly linked to child marriage. In Cameroon, 79 per cent of women aged 20 to 24 with no education and 45 per cent with primary education are married by 18, compared to 13 per cent of women with at least secondary schooling.
Lamana found safe refuge at her parents’ house, and with the help of AFHADEV she learnt about her rights and was able to return to education, studying computer science.
"Before I got married, I had many memories, but then all I could think of was what happened to me during the marriage. I needed to start something new again."
Today, she is much happier.
"Being back at school has been very important. It's allowed me to build confidence again."
Her experiences have also brought her family much closer together.
"My father has changed a lot after my experience. Now, if i'm running late to class, he's the one reminding me to get to school. He say, 'don't think about marriage; think about finishing school instead'."
"It's changed my thinking too. It makes me think – I can change my life now."