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Before she's ready for motherhood

Ayatollah is just one of millions of young girls in Africa who are forced to leave behind their education in order to become a young bride and mother before their bodies are fully developed.
Ayatollah is just one of millions of young girls in Africa who are forced to leave behind their education in order to become a young bride and mother before their bodies are fully developed.
November 29, 2012

Ayatollah is only 15 years old as she talks about her marriage to an old man that she has always had known as her neighbor. This is her story.

Lost Childhood


"I loved going to school and playing with my friends, but when my father said that girls do not need to go to school, I found myself herding cattle from sunrise to sunset as well as performing other household chores," says Ayatollah.

"One day, when I was playing outside, my father accompanied by an old man who is a contractor and our next door neighbor, came over to me and warned me to stop playing like a child as I had reached an age suitable for marriage."

"Two days later and to my disbelief, my mother told me that my father had married me off to the same old man in order to save the family from poverty," she recalls.

"It's a taboo for girls in our community to object to anything our parents say, so I said nothing," says Ayatollah.

Despite her age, Ayatollah's new husband wanted to have children with her even though he already had 6 children from his first wife. Every doctor they had visited begged for mercy for the little girl. "Her body is still too young to have children," Ayatollah recalls.

Despite her experience, she still has hopes. "I wish there was someone to help me and to stop this injustice by making this community a better place for the other young girls who live here."

Barriers to Education


Ayatollah's story illustrates one of the main barriers to receiving an education facing girls in many rural areas across Africa. Some fathers view committing their daughters to marriages as a pathway out of poverty.

Plan's 'Because I am a Girl' campaign is calling for increased investment in girl's education believing that educated girls are empowered girls, and that they can transform their own lives and the lives of everyone around them.

Learn more about Plan's work in Egypt.

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