Here are the stories of three young women who married as girls, told in their own words.
For Marwa, Marrying Young Was Normal and Promised a Fairytale
Marwa Al Edelbi was 12 when her family fled Homs in 2012 for Lebanon. What she remembers of Syria is friends, school and bombs.
“I remember the shelling while we were in class,” she recalled. “I remember that we couldn’t sleep at night because of the shelling.”
A year later, the sixth grader was married.
For Marwa, getting married at her age wasn’t something unusual—her eldest sister was married at 15. So when she was asked for her hand in marriage by her cousin, Marwa, then 13, was excited.
“My aunt came to our house and proposed—he was 23,” she said. “There wasn’t love or any feelings between us before (but) I was excited about becoming a bride … the white dress and the ring especially. Also, his family was in a better situation than ours. I thought I would move to my own place.”
“I thought I would move to a better life,” she added. “But that’s not what happened.”
In the intervening years, Marwa and her husband stayed in Burj Al Barajneh refugee camp, in southern Beirut, where her family landed when they arrived in Lebanon. The couple lived with her aunt’s other sons and their families—12 people in a two-bedroom apartment. Meanwhile, Marwa got pregnant seven months after she married. And again. And again. And again. After three consecutive years of pregnancy, Marwa, now 20, was due to have her second child with a C-section the day after this interview.
“I got pregnant because I wanted to, because I love kids,” she said. “Even so, the pregnancies have been difficult—I had some vitamin deficiencies and I would get dizzy sometimes. The labor of my first child was very difficult. … The doctors gave me drugs so my heart wouldn’t stop during labor. The second time was (less than a year) after that birth: The baby lost its life at seven months because the cord got twisted around its neck.”
The third time, her daughter died after one day, she says, because of medical negligence.
“Because I was admitted to the hospital through the U.N., they didn’t take care of me,” she said. “The baby died because she urgently needed to be put in an incubator but the hospital refused until we brought the money for it. It was too late.”
“I am very scared of giving birth tomorrow,” she added. “I did a coronavirus test today—it was negative. I am not afraid of labor, I am just worried about the child, I want my (child) to be born safely and in a good health. I just want that.”
“And I want to have a girl,” she added. “Girls are beautiful.”
Unlike many child brides, Marwa has a good marriage, she says. Even so, life continues to be difficult, especially because she has had trouble enrolling her 6-year old son in school: Public schools have not admitted him and private schools are too expensive. The family is struggling to survive financially.
“I am happy with my husband. He is a good man. I came to love him after we got married and I stayed in the marriage because of that,” she said. “Things became even better when he started working as a coppersmith. But he fell on glass and his hand got damaged. He can’t work well with (his hand) now. And he is unemployed now due to the economic situation in Lebanon.”