Realized on assignment for Voice of America (VOA)

When child brides grow up and become women, their life is already sealed, as is their look: hard and conscious. According to a worldwide report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, over 650 million women alive today were married as children.

Child marriage is often followed by pregnancy and premature births, with higher above average maternal mortality rates. Orkida was 14 years old when she was given in marriage by her family in Albania; the dowry brought by her husband was used to get her elder sister treated. Today Orkida is 40 years old, has five children and is already a grandmother, having given one of her daughters, Bleona, in marriage at the age of 12. She, too, is mother of 3 children and is just 18 years old. From mother to daughter…a never ending circle. Always due to the same two factors: poverty and illiteracy. From Southern Asia to sub-Saharan Africa, passing through the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, right into the heart of Europe: every year at least 12 million girls are married before they reach the age of 18. This is 28 girls every minute. Marriage is not a choice for them; it marks, instead, the end of childhood and the beginning of an uncertain future, depriving them of the possibility to make decisions about their own lives, making them more vulnerable to violence and abuse. A transcultural phenomenon that unites distant peoples living in the same condition, as it is within the Roma community in Tirana, Albania. Here, for many families like that of Orkida, to give a little girl in marriage is as good a way as another to survive. Almost all of them, once they have come of age, already have several children to look after, often with their husbands in prison. Sometimes with puffy eyes or torn wedding pictures behind them. According to Save the Children, the majority of child brides have received limited education and vocational opportunities and, as a consequence of child marriage, often drop out of school or are not allowed to return. It’s difficult to get away from the invisible prison where they have been confined since an early age, some women nevertheless have succeeded. After suffering years of her husband’s alcoholism and beatings, Orkida decided to divorce him and became the leader of the Roman Organization “Catia e Gruas Rome”, which stands for the rights of the Roma minorities. Education, work and desegregation are the only antidote to prevent millions of little girls, everywhere in the world, from continuing to be sold as brides. From mother to daughter.