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Child Brides Photo Series Proves Girls Are Simply 'Too Young To Wed'

Photographer Stephanie Sinclair's images aim to raise funds for girls forced into a practice that affects more than 14.2 million girls every year.

When Mejgon was 11 years old, her father sold her to a married 60-year-old Afghanistan man for two boxes of heroin.

“In my whole life, I’ve never felt love,” Mejgon, who endured years of abuse, told National Geographic photographer Stephanie Sinclair when she was 16.

Every year, 14.2 million girls like Mejgon are forced to marry before they turn 18, a damaging tradition that disproportionately affects poor girls and leaves them more susceptible to abuse, poverty and death due to childbirth and other health complications.

Sinclair met Mejgon at a safe house in Herat when she first began documenting the struggles and injustices child brides face. After learning that Mejgon had been sent back to live with her father, Sinclair felt emboldened to continue her photo initiative, which has now evolved into the "Too Young To Wed" series, a campaign that aims to raise awareness and funds for girls who are trapped in the cycle of child marriage.

“I have no idea what became of [Mejgon]. I’m sure it wasn’t good,” Sinclair told The Huffington Post. “The fact that I was powerless to do anything about it has been one of the main reasons why I continued the project and why I’m still working on it today.”



Aracely, 15, of Guatemala holds her infant. "What I hope is to keep moving forward ... to see how I can get my boy ahead. The hard thing, maybe ... when he gets older and he leaves ... that's when is going to be hard for me. When he is older. Because he is the one who will help me get ahead." Aracely is one of the half a million of Guatemalan girls who marry and give birth before they can legally vote, drink or buy cigarettes.


STEPHANIE SINCLAIR/TOO YOUNG TO WED
Aracely, 15, of Guatemala holds her infant. "What I hope is to keep moving forward ... to see how I can get my boy ahead. The hard thing, maybe ... when he gets older and he leaves ... that's when is going to be hard for me. When he is older. Because he is the one who will help me get ahead." Aracely is one of the half a million of Guatemalan girls who marry and give birth before they can legally vote, drink or buy cigarettes.

Sinclair started shooting child brides in Afghanistan in 2003, where 53 percent of girls marry before they turn 18. While the country banned the practice in 2009, advocates remain concerned about the effectiveness of such measures, which often go unenforced in the developing world.

However some are hopeful that the U.N.'s new Sustainable Development Goals, which aims to eliminate child marriage as part of the overall effort to achieve gender equality, could help put a stop to the practice.

Still, advocates, like Sinclair, look to on-the-ground groups, which are working to protect girls from child marriage and give them a refuge to escape if they are forced to wed.

Through Tuesday evening, Sinclair is selling the photos she’s taken in more than 10 countries from her Too Young To Wed series to support a number of organizations that are saving young, at-risk girls.

Part of the proceeds will support women and girls in Kargati Village in Nepal, which was devastated during the recent twin earthquakes. The earthquakes, which claimed more than 8,000 lives, has also subsequently put children at a higher risk of exploitation, according to UNICEF.







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