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Girls & Women

Incredible portraits of child marriage and FGM survivors

This photo essay was contributed in support of Human Rights Watch. All photographs are credited to Marcus Bleasdale, originally published here


Child marriage is deeply embedded in Tanzanian society. In many cultures in Tanzania, girls are generally considered ready for marriage when they reach puberty and marriage is viewed as a way to protet them from pre-martial sex and pregnancy that undermine family honour and may decrease the amount of dowry a family may receive. Cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) also contribute to child marriage in some communities.

Among the Maasai and Gogo ethnic groups FGM is closely related to child marriage and is done primarily as a rite of passage to prepare girls, aged 10-15 years, for marriage. Many Tanzanians regard child marriage as a way of securing financial security for themselves and their daughters. The practice of dowry payment by the groom to the bride’s family is a key incentive for many families to marry off their daughters. Some girls see marriage as a way out of poverty, violence, or neglect. Child labour in Tanzania may also be associated with a significant increase in marriage at an earlier age, as girls who face abuse and exploitation in their workplaces see marriage as a way to escape their suffering.


fgm hrw 1.jpegMount Meru Kilimanjaro and Jane a survivor of FGM
Image: Marcus Bleasdale


fgm hrw 2.jpegKwangu Ihela at school in Idukilo primary school. She was expelled when they found out she was pregnant. She lost the baby at 7 months.
Image: Marcus Bleasdale


fgm hrw 3.jpegN forced into marriage at 10 years old, now 12.
Image: Marcus Bleasdale

"One day I heard from my grandmother that they wanted to cut me and send me to my husband. I was staying with my grandmother from my mother’s side, then one day they called me and told me, 'get prepared you are going to be mutilated and taken to your husband, no more school for you.' I was in standard 2. I cried and ran away to my teacher. My teacher told me to remain with her and she would go call my grandmother and others to come and discuss the issue."


fgm hrw 4.jpgDaily routine at home with Regina Sumaya a victim of child marriage.
Image: Marcus Bleasdale


fgm hrw 5.jpgTherezia Hendry was married at 11 and fled her marriage after her husband found another woman
Image: Marcus Bleasdale


fgm hrw 6.jpgGenoveva Edward a victim of child marriage
Image: Marcus Bleasdale

Genoveva fled after her husband started beating her. He later died and now she lives back with her mother. Her father forced her into marriage but he also passed away.


fgm hrw 7.jpgAgape Knowledge and Training Centre (AKTC) and Rehema Juma at that centre. She was found to be pregnant and expelled from school.
Image: Marcus Bleasdale


fgm hrw 8.jpgDaily routine at home with Regina Sumaya a victim of child marriage.
Image: Marcus Bleasdale


fgm hrw 9.jpgTaking Naomi Home for two weeks meeting Maasai parents and family.
Image: Marcus Bleasdale

Her family was trying to make her marry when she was 11 so the local leaders took her to a boarding school, away from her family. She can visit in the holidays.


fgm hrw 10.jpgImage: Marcus Bleasdale

Simanjiro, Tanzania, an area where Child Marriage and FGM is very common. The remoteness of the communities makes it very difficult to monitor the issues.


fgm hrw 11.jpgMasai leaders who are committed to stopping FGM and child marriage in their community.
Image: Marcus Bleasdale