Mariah is the Program Manager of End Slavery Now. Currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio, she graduated from the University of Cincinnati's DAAP program with a degree in Digital Design.
Sonita is from Afghanistan, and her family had tried to marry her off multiple times. She had witnessed friends as young as 12 be sold into marriage and drop out of school to bear children. Sonita decided to fight back against the marriage proposal in the form of rapping. She is a successful artist who is now living in the United States but plans to go back to Afghanistan and fight for women’s rights.
Zienabou was abruptly taken out of school and became her neighbor’s second wife. She ran away on multiple occasions only to be beaten by her family and returned to her husband. This practice is very common in Niger – her home country – where some girls as young as 10 are taken out of school in order to be married off. After her last failed escape attempt, Zienabou’s husband tried to force himself on her. Zienabou did the only thing she could think of in order to defend herself: she bit his penis so hard that he fainted. She caused her husband so much pain that he asked her parents and the community elders for a divorce. She no longer has to feel afraid, and her parents agreed to let her finish school before marrying her again.
In some areas of Ethiopia, it is a common practice for men to abduct their brides. Aberash was the victim of one such abduction and was raped by what the community deemed to be her “future husband.” She was able to get ahold of his rifle and shot and killed him. She was put on trial, and the public called for her to be hung for her crime. Today, Aberash works for Harmee, an NGO that combats violence against women.
Rekha’s older sister was married at the age of 12, had almost died during childbirth four different times, and lost all of her children. Rekha was only 11 when her parents tried to marry her off as well, but she refused and said she wanted to stay in school. Her parents tried many times and even tried to starve her to get her to comply. Her family was very poor, and her parents could not longer afford to feed her. So, this was the only option they saw as a way to have her taken care of. Rekha stood by what she wanted and refused to marry. She is the author of a book called The Strength to Say No: One Girl’s Fight Against Forced Marriage where she tells her tale.
Around the world, 41,000 girls are forced to marry every day.
Officials encountered as many as 3,000 cases of forced marriage in the U.S. in 2011