For over 15 years, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Stephanie Sinclair has documented the lives of girls forced into childhood marriage. The resulting series, Too Young To Wed, has earned numerous global accolades, been shown at the United Nations, and was the impetus for the nonprofit she founded in 2012 by the same name. An updated version of the series was chosen as the inaugural exhibition of the newly opened Arche du Photojournalisme located on the roof of the La Grande Arche de la Défense in Paris. After walking through the gallery, Olivela founder and CEO Stacey Boyd reflects on what she learned and recalls how it was one of Sinclair’s photos that moved her to bring Too Young To Wed onboard as one of Olivela’s partner causes .
Shortly after I had conceived of Olivela, I came across Stephanie’s photo of Nujood (above), who was 10 years old when she fled her marriage to a much older man. The photo was taken a few years later, and her joy and the potential in her expression and movement took my breath away. Her story is emblematic. So many girls have their potential stunted at way too young an age. I reached out to Stephanie to figure out how Olivela could help fund the incredible work she is doing both to raise awareness and support girls, like Nujood, who want to finish school and set their lives on a different path.
When I think about the opportunities that lay ahead for my own girls, ages 10 and 12, my heart breaks for those who don’t get the same chances. And it’s happening all over. In France, 70,000 girls under 18 are at risk, and in the United States, close to 60,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 17 were married in 2014. Just think about that. More than half of the states, 27 to be exact, do not have a legal minimum age for marriage. That is unconscionable. There is so much more work to be done just to educate people on this issue. Stephanie’s exhibit does this so beautifully. While the photos make us confront what is happening to this vulnerable population, they also capture their courage and strength. She gives them a voice. One picture, in particular, I can’t stop thinking about.The photo of Uzma (age 4, below) learning the alphabet at school set up by a woman who survived gang rape. It is hauntingly beautiful and very inspirational.
To see more of Stephanie Sinclair’s photographs and learn how you can help end childhood marriage, click here.