More than 60 percent of Ethiopian girls will be married before they are 17. It's a startling fact.
But when we see and hear the story of a girl who was forced into marriage when she was just 14 years old, statistics are transformed from mere numbers to a face. To a voice. To reality.
Meet Melka, a 20-year-old Ethiopian woman who was married off by her parents at age 14. Now, through a World Vision program, Melka shares her story and teaches young girls about their rights in an effort to prevent the perpetuation of child marriage in her community.
Libo Kemkem, Ethiopia: Melka, 20, was not told when her parents arranged her marriage at age 14. She now volunteers her time at a local school, teaching girls about their rights and the negative effects of early marriage. ©Richard E. Robbins, 10x10act.org
The sad truth is that there are countless Melkas scattered across the globe. In fact, in the developing world, one in three girls is married before she reaches 18 years old, and one in seven is married before she is 15.
One hundred million more girls will become child brides over the next decade, but we have an opportunity now to make this stop.
For starters, we can shed light on this reality through powerful storytelling, and begin to effect policy changes in support of girls around the world. Stories like Melka's can be told, thanks to a new partnership between World Vision and 10x10, a global campaign for girls' education.
At 10x10, we tell powerful stories to inspire you to take action in support of girls around the world. We know that investing in girls can change the world, and we are using our campaign and feature film to change minds, change lives, and change policy around girls' education.
So far, World Vision has hosted us in India and Ethiopia, where we have met some incredible girls. A few of their photographs and stories are currently on display in an exhibit sponsored by Intel and USAID at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. If you're in the area, be sure to check it out.
These stories can make a real impact. I hope you'll join the 10x10 campaign for girls' education. Together, let's change the world.
The following photos are a sample of the 10x10 photo exhibit, sponsored by Intel and USAID, that will run through January at the gallery at the USAID Knowledge Services Center at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Mezzanine Level, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20004.
Kolkata, India: It is no secret that India is big and getting bigger. But while more than 40 percent of India's population is children, less than 50 percent of school-aged kids actually go to school. For those who do manage to get to school, India has one of the worst student-to-teacher ratios in the world, with 42 students for every teacher. On average, there are less than three teachers per primary school. These girls are mostly the daughters of rickshaw drivers, pictured here at a World Vision after-school program that helps give them the support they need to keep pursuing their education. ©Martha Adams, 10x10act.org
Takhar Province, Afghanistan: This 11th-grade girl is just one of hundreds who lined up in the early morning hours to greet the 10x10 team at The Bibi Aisha Girls' School in northeastern Afghanistan. Built and supported by 10x10 partners Afghan Connection and the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, Bibi Aisha serves girls in the first through 12th grades who walk to school each day from villages eight miles around. ©Leslie Knott, 10x10act.org
Jacmel, Haiti: With the generous support of PLAN International, these girls are studying in open-air classrooms, while the school buildings destroyed in the earthquake are being rebuilt. ©Martha Adams, 10x10act.org
Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Bikes are an extremely powerful intervention in places where simply getting to school is a challenge. Most of the kids in this slum of Phnom Penh are too poor to attend government-run "public" schools, where the cost of uniforms and books is prohibitive. But with the combination of a bike and the free education provided at the People Improvement Organization's school, these kids are getting a chance to learn. ©Martha Adams, 10x10act.org
Bardiya, Nepal: The 18-year-old Asha is a member of the Tharu ethnic group in southern Nepal. The Tharu are still subjecting many of their girls to Kamlari, a traditional practice of bonded labor where girls become virtual slaves in the homes of wealthy landlords. Although the practice is illegal, Asha was sent hundreds of miles away from home when she was just 12. Today, with the incredible support of 10x10 partner Room to Read, Asha is in the eighth grade and active in the efforts to end Kamlari among the Tharu. ©Richard E. Robbins, 10x10act.org
Cairo, Egypt: An all-girls karate class takes place at Hope Village, an NGO affiliated with UNICEF, which helps the huge population of street children in Egypt. Donya (second to right), 15, spent five years living on the streets with her little sister. Donya told us that she loves her karate class because it "makes me feel powerful and gives me a sense of safety." ©Gina Nemirofsky, 10x10act.org