Every year, 15 million girls marry before their eighteenth birthday. For girls like eight-year-old Maindi,Â child marriage can have a devastating impact on their physical, emotional and economic welfare.
These striking images capture how one church in Kenya is taking a stand and protecting child brides.
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Child marriage: Maindiâs story
As the sun rises over the manyatta (village), the dawn light dances around the tiny mud hut Maindi shares with her family of seven.
Part of the Rendille community, an indigenous tribe in Kenya, Maindi is the youngest of five children.
âWe named our daughter Maindi, which means maize, since she was born during a time of abundance, just after the community had faced the worst famine ever, in which we lost almost all our animals,â recalls her mother Koreiya, the sorrow still evident in her voice.
Like many women in her community Koreiya never received an education and was aÂ victim of young marriage in her early teens. A cycle that looked set to continue for Maindi.
What is child marriage and how does it happen?
Child marriage is a formal marriage or informal union that takes place before the age of 18. âYoung girls are âbookedâ at a very young age by older men,â explains Mathew, pastor of African Inland Church:
They marry as young as ten or twelve years old. The Rendille womenâs shift from maidenhood to matrimony is manifested by the agonizing rite of female genital mutilation (FGM), which happens in private on the very morning of her wedding. The church is at the forefront of fighting these retrogressive cultural practices.
What is the impact of child marriage?
The dangers of child marriage are well documented. According to UNICEF, child brides are at risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. If attending school, they are less likely to remain in the classroom, more likely to experience domestic violence, and have a higher risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth.
Girls in poverty are more vulnerable to child marriage
For communities like Maindiâs with scarce resources and a reliance on livestock for survival this presents a huge challenge when it comes to protecting girls.
âFor the Rendille community Education is not valued since children are considered as readily available labour to help the family look after their goats and sheep,â says Matthew. âBoys and girls as young as two years old stay out in the bush for prolonged periods of time tending to the animals. A huge task bestowed on children.â
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Breaking the cycle of early marriage
In 2015, pastor Matthew and his church began partnering with Compassion. Maindi was one of 255 children who was found a child sponsor. She became the first in her family to attend school.
âMaindi is the only one of my children who attends school because the [Compassion] project greatly assists with her school fees and supplies,â says Koreiya.
Providing girls like Maindi with an education helps them break the cycle of poverty. Research shows educated women are less likely to marry early and against their will, less likely to die in childbirth, more likely to have healthy babies, and more likely to send their children to school.
You can protect the next girl like Maindi by becoming their sponsor today.
Sponsor a girl like Maindi
Child marriage statistics
I'm no child bride - Free from child marriage
Dressed in a bright cobalt blue dress, a birthday gift from her sponsor, and adorned in colourful beads Maindi prepares to attend her Compassion project which holds activities every Saturday.
Keen not to be late, sheâs eager to finish her chores quickly. Hoping skillfully over the fence she swiftly separates the goats and beginnings milking. As she works, Maindi lets a stream of milk fill her cupped hand before raising it to her month to drink, the warm milk running through her fingers and down her arm.
Watching this familiar sight, her mum laughs fondly, "Sheâs a very cheeky one. Thatâs her favourite part about milking the goats. But Iâm glad she helps around here even with the little things. We are so happy that she is in the [Compassion] project because she can attend school unlike her siblings and hopefully help her family in future."
Thanks to partners like African Inland Church, Compassion is able to ensure sponsored children are known, loved and protected.
Through culturally sensitive programmes delivered by local churches who understand their communityâs social customs and challenges, we're educating girls and their families about the dangers of early marriage.
Sponsor a child like Maindi today
Pray forÂ girls at risk of child marriage
- Pray for a greater awareness of the dangers of child marriage. Lift up those like Pastor Mathew who are working tirelessly to sensitively educate girls and their families.
- PrayÂ for girls in the world's poorest communities to be given better access to education. Ask that girls at risk of early marriage to be given the opportunity to stay in the classroom.
- Praise God for His mighty provision for Maindi and her family. Pray for this courageous young girl as she grows up. Ask that God will use her story to influence and encourage others.