Halima was given in temporary marriage as a teenager to an older man. The man divorced her after only a few months. Halima got pregnant, and though she delivered a healthy baby, her body was injured in childbirth, leaving her infertile.

Child marriage is a practice in which parents give their young daughter in marriage to a much older man, often in exchange for money and goods. Child brides are typically between the ages of 15 and 19, with 1 in 9 married before they turn 15. A child bride faces far greater health risks in pregnancy and delivery,  and is extremely vulnerable to abuse by her husband and in-laws. In thousands of  tragic cases, men, looking for ways to satisfy their lusts without breaking legal or religious laws,  arrange a short term marriage with the intention of discarding her through a verbal divorce.

Child marriage is widespread. As we’ve written before, it is estimated that over 140 million teenage girls will be married by 2020 and half the girls in developing countries like South Sudan are forced to marry before the age of 18.

Why do parents marry off their young daughters? Is it just an unfortunate part of the culture? Not necessarily, according to an article by the London Telegraph that cites a 2013 report by World Vision.

The report states that “of the 25 countries with the highest rates of early marriage, the majority are affected by conflict, fragility or natural disasters. Girls trapped in early marriage tend to be poor, under-educated and living in rural areas where birth and death rates are high and where conflict is common.”

Hannah Stevenson, co-author of the report, writes that “many parents around the world believe (marriage) is the best possible way to ensure their daughters are looked after…in most cases parents fear the child will starve or have no money, especially when have lost everything through war.

“(Parents) think the only way for their child to have a decent life is to marry her off at a young age. They do it with a heavy heart. They don’t really want to marry them off at all.”

How, then, can a girl have hope for the future?

Among many factors, financial stability can be play a crucial role in securing a daughter’s future. At She Is Safe, we work to provide economic empowerment for women and their families  in rural areas so that they will not sell their daughters or arrange for them to be married at a young age. Women who are brought into SIS Transformation Groups enjoy fellowship, training, and seed funds that allow them to start businesses.

With these economic opportunities, women can help secure the future of their daughters and have the income to send them to school. Neighbors notice that there is another future for young girls apart from child marriage. Communities change.

Click here to read the original article from The Telegraph.

This special feature on child marriage is part of the “Hope Shines” initiative, an opportunity for people all over the world to shine a light on behalf of girls into the evening sky on International Day of the Girl (October 11) and raise funds to free and equip them for a brighter future. Learn more about “Hope Shines” and register to participate today!