Voice of America introduces “The Worth of a Girl,” a sweeping multimedia project that examines child marriage around the world. VOA journalists from 12 language services explore the practice and its impact: What does a child bride bring to a marriage — a dowry, social status, domestic labor, business connections? What is her value to two families, the one she leaves and the one she joins? And what is the cost to the girl?
VOA news teams traveled to sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Latin America to hear and record the stories of child brides. The journalists spoke with girls – some newly married and one who eluded a forced marriage – as well as older women who could recount their experiences as child brides and young mothers.
Some child brides report happy and productive lives as wives and mothers, while others have been traumatized by marrying at a vulnerable age. But two common themes emerged in discussions: missed educational opportunities and a desire to help other girls, especially their daughters, avoid the same path.
Many of the brides’ accounts, shared months ago on social media, have received millions of views and thousands of comments. Reactions range from tearful emojis to arguments for and against child marriage, based on viewpoints related to faith, money, culture, power, sexism and love.
According to UNICEF, approximately 650 million children and women alive today were married before age 18, roughly 17% of the global female population. VOA’s “Worth of a Girl” project gives a voice and a face to the millions of young girls who are involved in a practice the United Nations is trying to eliminate by 2030.