Sold as a child bride
Mariama, 13, lives in Niger. Her mother and uncle sold her as a child bride to a local man, accepting £122 (100,000 CFA) from the man for her daughter’s hand in marriage.
Seventy-five percent of girls in Niger are married before they reach 18; 36 per cent before they are 15 years old.
How could a mother do this to her daughter? The reason is simple: poverty. Marrying off a daughter means one less mouth to feed.
Ramatou explains: “I really regret what’s happening, but you have to understand that I’m a widow. Even if I had no one else to feed, I would be lying awake at night thinking about how I’m going to feed myself the next day. I have to struggle to feed my children.
"So if an opportunity comes along...the only solution is to get her married. Firstly she’s no longer my responsibility and secondly you don’t run the risk of what will happen if she stays at home.”
Ramatou is afraid that Mariama might be “spoiled” – a term for a girl who has sex before marriage. If she falls pregnant outside marriage, she would become unmarryable.
Marrying a stranger
Mariama only knew about her marriage when she came home from school one day. She explains: “I wasn’t even told; I just went to get some exercise books from a friend of mine in the neighbourhood. On my way back, I met some girls who said they’d seen people in my house. The people told them they’d come to ask for my hand in marriage.”
When she heard that she was to be married, Mariama couldn’t stop worrying. She would no longer go out with her friends, because she believed everyone was talking about it. She begged her uncle, who helped arrange the marriage, to be patient and let her grow up.
"I’ve been sad since the first day they told me that I wouldn’t go to school and that I am to get married.”
Dropping out of school
Mariama enjoyed school and was a clever student. But when the marriage was announced, Mariama’s teacher began teasing her and her fellow pupils followed suit.
“And if she went out of the class to visit other teachers, most of the girls started laughing and shouting ‘the new bride! The new bride!’
Mariama subsequently left school because she was being treated differently from the other students. When she was given an exercise to do, the teacher would tell her to go outside and sweep the courtyard because, she admonished, she was not a hard-working student anymore; she was simply thinking about marriage. Mariama felt so fed up that she dropped out.
Protecting girls like Mariama
Plan International is working with communities in Niger to increase awareness around child marriage and promote gender equality. We’re helping child brides and encouraging girls to stay in school.
Thanks to our efforts, a local judge stepped in to put a stop to Mariama’s marriage arrangement.
Mariama is now back in school. “Going to school for young girls is very important,” she says, “because girls here are very close to their families. The idea is to get a great income and build a house for one’s family.”
Through our Because I am a Girl campaign, the world's biggest campaign for girls' rights, we are working to end child marriage in a generation.