Every day around 41,000 girls under the age of 18 get married worldwide – that’s 15 million girls a year. The statistics are shocking, and they tell only a portion of the horrible truth. Some countries don’t even report child-marriage rates, and most studies do not include children under age 15. Estimates of the number of women alive today who were married before age 18 do not include the millions of little girls who died young from abuse, early pregnancy, neglect, or suicide.

Child wives are traumatized emotionally and physically. Many are used as slaves for the husbands’ families, beaten, sexually abused, and not allowed to attend school. They receive little food, rest, or health care. Some commit suicide to escape their torture. Others become numb from the abuse and lack of love.   

Many countries are passing laws to raise the legal age for marriage, but cultural norms are difficult to change. When individuals speak up and defend girls and teach them that they have legal rights, things begin to change.

Some communities allow organizations to teach life skills to child wives so they can better care for their children. When someone treats them with dignity, traumatized child wives can find hope and begin to thrive.

India has by far the most child brides of any country. In Jordan and Turkey, refugee girls have been sold as brides to much older men. Young brides, some only 12 years old, are now entering Europe. Many countries with high rates of child marriage are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa.

A woman in Kenya testified, I was forced to marry an old man when I was a very young girl. But I praise Jesus because God used a lady in a Project Hannah prayer group to transform my life completely. Through prayers, today I am a woman and a wife of noble character.”