Sarah Morrison: The forgotten girls - by 2020, there will be 50m child brides under the age of 15
WHEN 12-year-old Nargis was woken up, one morning in Bangladesh, by two women she did not know, she was confused. She did not understand when they told her she would be marrying their brother in just a few weeks, or that she would be leaving her parents' home. When she became a mother two years later, losing her son after only 16 days, the pangs of fear were familiar. Now, with a frail child to bring up, she is much more resolute: "I don't think girls should marry before they're 18 years old."
Just days before the first internationally recognised Day of the Girl on Wednesday, experts warn that child marriage is, without exception, the biggest challenge to girls' development. The number of girls married before the age of 15 is expected to double over the next decade, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has warned. By 2020, there will be around 50 million wives under the age of 15. This will pass 100 million by 2030, if current trends continue.
Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the UNFPA, said the "shocking" projections were being released to call the world's attention to the scale of the problem. "We are dealing with the largest generation of young people the world has ever known," he said. "This is the marrying off of children who don't even understand what it is to be married or to be an adult. Girls are being robbed of their childhood. They have babies before they are ready, and we see intergenerational poverty. We need to stop this vicious cycle."