For the last several months we've been doing a lot of traveling to talk to some of the most important people on the planet: girls and young women. There's a lot of evidence that when girls go to school and then go on to get jobs, everybody benefits - society gains from their work, and when they marry, their families are healthier. But there's something that often keeps girls and women around the world from living up to their potential and feeling their true power—early marriage...in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, each year millions of girls are married off when they are just children.
As the mother of a nine year old girl, i wanted to find out about the cultural and economic pressures that could lead parents to marry off their young daughters and see what's being done from the grassroots to change that. Amy Bucher produced this special report.
These are the faces of the future. Girls from all over the world who could grow up into productive citizens.
But in places where child marriage prevails, they are treated as commodities, bought and sold into marriages they don't chose and aren't ready for.
Traditions that are centuries old determine the fate of millions of girls:
These are the stories of child brides...
Our journey starts in India. We're headed to the northern state of Rajasthan, to the villages and towns around the city of Jodhpur.
Outside the cities, much of India still functions as it has for centuries. It is a patriarchal society.
You may have heard about arranged marriages, but here in Rajasthan,
68 % of girls born in the region become child brides before the age of 18.
In villages like Binawas, the shocking truth is that many are married much younger than that.
MAMTA: My name is Mamta. I am 12 years old. Every morning, I sweep and mop. I wash clothes, and do all the work everyday.
MAMTA'S MOTHER: She was 7, this big, when we got her married. She was this big.
Mamta: I was small.. There were lots of people... they dressed me up but i didn't know what was happening...
HINOJOSA: Like most of India's rural poor, Mamta's family struggles to survive on less than a dollar a day. Marrying off a daughter means one less mouth to feed.
But it's not that simple.
A marriage can't take place without a dowry, the payment a girls' family is expected to make to her future in-laws.
MAMTA'S MOTHER: It's a poor house. We don't have jewelry. So if someone will take less and says he wants to marry my daughter, I say, ok, you can take her for marriage.
HINOJOSA: As is the custom, Mamta will be sent to her husband when she reaches puberty. She's had no contact with him since their wedding night, five years ago.
MAMTA: if I see him in the town... I don't want to speak to him... I don't want to go where he is.
HINOJOSA: Although she's married, Mamta is still just a little girl, confused about her future.
MAMTA: I have no idea when I will go to his house, how I will get there. I don't know why I am going.
HINOJOSA: In just a year or two, Mamta will become a full-fledged wife. She will no longer go to school. She will leave her family, and go live with a stranger, who is now her husband.
While still a child, her new role will be to have sex, bear children, and raise a family.
But Mamta's case is hardly unusual - millions of girls across India are married as children every year. On the books, these child marriages are illegal—girls must be 18 years old. Mamta's marriage at the age of seven was a crime. So how did she end up a child bride?
We found out that communities evade the law by holding weddings in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness.
Outsiders are rarely permitted access to these secret ceremonies.
Two nights ago our team had tried to film a child marriage. When we got there, and they saw our cameras, the community got suspicious and they hid all of the child couples. Tonight, we've been invited to attend the wedding of two child couples. So, we're going in undercover with a hidden camera.
Just around midnight our guide led us to a crowded courtyard. By the time we arrived, dozens of people had gathered for the event. The wedding was already in progress. The ceremony centered around a fire.
Women showed off the jewelry they had worn to celebrate the marriage of two tiny couples. The brides were no more than 3 or 4 years old.
The grooms, one wearing a special crown with flashing lights, were also children—no more than 6 or 7.
Too soon, childhood for these girls will be over. As wives, their destiny will be years and years of household labor and childrearing. The chance to go to school will vanish. It's a hard life - surveys have found that two-thirds of child brides are beaten by their in-laws.
20 year old Chuka was married when she was only 5 years old, in a ceremony like the one we witnessed. She didn't see her husband again until she was a teenager. When Chuka was given to her in-laws, her new family found her lacking. They showed their disappointment by beating her.
CHUKA: They hit me here...everywhere. My mother-in-law hit me, my husband hit me, my sister-in-law...They used wooden sticks, pipes, stones.
HINOJOSA: Why did they want to hurt you so much?
CHUKA: They said "You don't look good. You're not beautiful, you are ugly!. I don't like you! I don't even like to look at you! Go back to your house".
HINOJOSA: But Chuka stayed. After two years, she became pregnant. Early in her pregnancy she says her in-laws tied her up one night and beat her until dawn.
CHUKA: They hit me with shoes and the heel of the shoes. They hit me with pipes until I passed out.
HINOJOSA: Chuka lost her baby.
CHUKA'S MOTHER: She was in a very bad state, They had to take her to the hospital, they had to leave her there for many days.
HINOJOSA: What did it do to you as a mother, to see your daughter hurt and hated so much?
CHUKA'S MOTHER : I have no power. What could I have said? I heard so many stories. That she was beaten, that she was not beaten. They lie. It's my daughter. I know what's been happening to her.
HINOJOSA: Chuka has been living at home for the past two years, afraid to go back to her husband's family.
CHUKA: I am scared of all the beating - that they will hit me and they will kill me. I tell my parents that if you want to send me back, you might as well kill me yourself.
CHUKA'S MOTHER: My heart is very sad...What I am going to do with this girl now.
HINOJOSA: Chuka's life is stuck. Without a divorce, she can't remarry. Her mother asked us to find out what Chuka's husband plans on doing, so we went to look for him in his village an hour away.
First we spoke to Chuka's mother-in-law.
In your opinion, what happened between your son Ladoram and his wife?
LADURAM'S MOTHER: She does not understand anything about cooking, she is dirty, she goes to people's houses and steals things. I do all the work, I do all the work—I wake up in the morning and make rotis
Is this how a wife is supposed to behave?
HINOJOSA: Chuka says you beat her and caused her to lose her baby. Did you beat her?
LADURAM'S MOTHER: The mother gave her medicines and got the baby killed. I asked her—what have you done? She said I don't want a child. We did not hit her. Ask the neighbors, and villagers.
GREAT GRANDMOTHER-IN-LAW: We don't want that girl.... Laduram says he does not want that girl.
HINOJOSA: I see this picture of Laduram and he is clearly a boy too young to make a choice for himself.
I wanted to hear Laduram's side of the story. When he arrived at the family compound, he agreed to tell us what happened.
Chuka says you beat her, you hurt her, you made her lose this child. Is that the truth?
LADURAM: No, it can't be. She aborted the baby, then I hit her. I just slapped her. I have no feelings for her any more.
HINOJOSA: Why did this go wrong?
LADURAM: Child marriages are not good. When you are older you make your decisions. When you are young, you don't know anything.
HINOJOSA: Do you want to end your marriage with your wife?
LADURAM: She is not worthy of me, that's all. I am willing to write it down that the marriage is over.
HINOJOSA: The case of Chuka and Laduram is a powerful example of what can go wrong with an early marriage.
Officially, the Indian government has stiffened the penalties for those who continue the practice.
But people who are sent out to enforce the law have met with fierce resistance.
Two years ago, Shakuntala Verma, a government social worker, tried to break up a child wedding.
SHAKUNTALA: When I got there, there were 22 children getting married. I told the parents that children should not be given such a big responsibility —their childhood would be over.
HINOJOSA: When you knew that you were going to be dealing with the issue of child marriage, were you worried?
SHAKUNTALA: I had never thought that the people I was working with were dangerous or they could harm me.
HINOJOSA: But three nights after she tried to stop the wedding, Shakuntala was assaulted inside her own home.
SHAKUNTALA: I was attacked with a machete. I covered my head with my hands. They hit me on my head, shoulder, neck and back. Then I fell unconscious.
HINOJOSA: Her attackers cut off one of her hands, and left her for dead.
SHAKUNTALA: My doctors thought I would not survive.
HINOJOSA: After three days in a coma, Shakuntala regained consciousness. Though the doctors were able to reattach her severed hand it is almost useless.
SHAKUNTALA: My left hand is totally lost. My husband has to change my clothes.
HINOJOSA: Despite this horrific attack, Shakuntala Verma is back on the job.
SHAKUNTALA: I cannot leave the work half finished. If I do, who will continue it? I don't want them to think they can scare us by being violent. I have lived a long life and lived it well and I have no problem, even if they kill me.
HINOJOSA: Shakuntala told me there isn't much law enforcment to back her up. So people like her, on the frontlines, make little headway. In 2006, roughly 4 million girls were married as children.
But India is just one of many countries battling the scourge of child marriage.
In Africa, early marriage is common throughout much of the continent. The higest rates occur in the country of Niger.
We're on our way from the capital of Niamey to the region of Maradi, to meet a man who is calling for change...a progressive tribal leader breaking with tradition to end the practice of early marriage.
It won't be easy. More than three-quarters of young girls in Niger wed before the age of 18.
In this predominantly Muslim country, the old ways still thrive. Girls are given away as brides as early as nine years old.
Ask them all how many of them, raise their hand, how many 15 or younger when they got married.
In the village of Magagi Rogo women tell us they had no say in choosing when —and who, they married:
GIRL: The girls fathers decide. The mothers just watch them. We don't make any decision.
HINOJOSA: Abdou Bala Marafa is the Emir, or tribal king of Gobir, a vast region in southern Niger that includes Maradi. He rules a dynasty that dates back 5000 years. In his kingdom, many consider him more influential than the president of Niger.
Can you tell us why it is that in Niger so many young girls are getting married so early in their lives?
EMIR: Our tradition wants the girl to be a virgin when she gets married. There is the fear of pregnancy before marriage which is totally not accepted, not tolerated. She is the shame of the entire family, the entire community. People will spit in her face.
HINOJOSA: The Emir tells us this fear of girls getting pregnant before marriage has grown with the changing times.
EMIR: Children —you find them where? Watching tv, watching videos which you can find in all the countryside. They are watching sexy films. When before it was really taboo. We didn't talk about sexuality, you see. But now kids starting at 7-10 years old they think they know what a woman is, they think a woman and a man can do this or that. So today they are getting married early, but their sexuality is also early.
We are in a Muslim world. We are Muslim. Islam is here in our hearts. The good Muslim should not have sexual relations outside marriage.
HINOJOSA: But does it happen?
EMIR: I said he shouldn't. There are good Muslims and there are bad Muslims.
HINOJOSA: Once girls get married, they discouraged from going to school. As in India, they trade a future of learning for hard labor and birthing babies. This creates a problem for the entire country. Niger has the world's highest fertility rate: an average of eight children per woman.
TRANSLATOR: Yes, she is.
HINOJOSA: How many children does she have?
ZEINABOU: This is the seventh pregnancy. I have 6 children.
TRANSLATOR: This is her seventh pregnancy.
HINOJOSA: Early marriage means more children, and a sky-rocketing population.
Niger already has problems feeding its 14 million people. I had never seen so many malnourished children and if the birth rate is not checked, the population will double in the next two decades.
Experts now agree that ending child marriage is one of the most important steps a country can take as it strives to develop.
The Emir of Gobir, this man steeped in tradition, is now committed to changing one he says is harmful to girls.
Why do you care so much about girls and women? Why is that so important to you?
EMIR: I have daughters. I am the father of girls. I have a daughter who is just finished school last year. She is in her 23 today and we don't even talk about marriage. It's not the ideal age to marry at 13-14. The woman hasn't finished to grow.
HINOJOSA: One of the most devastating consequences of early marriage is that young girls who aren't ready are forced into pregnancy.
Niger has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. If the girl survives, often her baby does not. And she is left with lasting injuries.
Habi's wedding day came when she was 13 years old.
HABI: My parents forced me to get married. People were dancing but I was crying. At the end of the day, they pronounced us husband and wife. I ran away and hid at a relative's house, but they found me and brought me back to my husband. He was very happy because he wanted the marriage. I was too small to understand what marriage is.
HINOJOSA: In the past, husbands of child brides waited until their wives were older before they consummated their marriage.
EMIR: In the times of our grandparents it wasn't such a problem. Girls were married early, but if I may say it wasn't as if there was cohabitation. When the young girl went to her husband's, she was young, but she didn't sleep with her husband right away.
HINOJOSA: Now husbands aren't waiting. They force their underage wives into sex and early pregnancy.
HABI: I was worried about myself. I was very young to be pregnant. I thought I might die.
HINOJOSA: In Niger, there are only around 20 obstetricians for a population of 14 million. 85% of expecting mothers give birth at home. Habi was no exception.
HABI: I don't have words to describe the pain that I was feeling... They were treating me with some traditional medicine and the pain was getting worse. When I couldn't take it, anymore my parents brought me to the heath center at the next village.
They told me to keep on pushing, "the baby is coming! The baby is coming!" Because when the baby came it would be the end of my pain, but this was false.
DR. ABDOULAYE: In Habi's case, because of her young age we think that the head of the baby was too big for the size of her hips.
HINOJOSA: After four long days of labor Habi was finally transferred to a hospital in Maradi, where doctors performed a cesarean. Her baby was dead. But Habi's nightmare was far from over.
HABI: After I start to be sick, the urine did not stop.
HINOJOSA: Prolonged labor had ruptured Habi's bladder, leaving a hole called a Fistula. She is now incontinent.
The trauma also caused nerve damage in her left leg.
HABI: I cannot even put my sandals on it without using my hands....it hurts!
I suffered a lot. It was hell, marriage is hell.
HINOJOSA: But if marriage was hell, Habi can only look forward to more of the same if she returns to her village still leaking urine. Women and girls in her condition are ostracized by their communities, and even their families, outcasts because of their smell.
But Abdou Bala Marafa, the Emir of Gobir, has decided no girl should suffer such a fate.
EMIR: As the father of the community of Gobir, when I see a girl married too early, who became fistulous? Who can't contain her urine, who cannot live in the society, who is really marginalized. I don't have the right to stay seated and let things continue this way.
HINOJOSA: The Emir has decided to combat early marriage with help from UNICEF, by deploying outreach workers on motorcycles. They are called "good conduct brigades." When they hear about a child marriage, they travel to the village as a team to investigate, and if necessary, intercede on the girl's behalf.
The brigades also hold village rallies.
YA'YHA: From today forward, let's not have one new case of early marriage!
HINOJOSA: What is it like for you, you personally to come into a village to try and stop this?
YA'HYA: These interventions that we do are to save lives. We save these girls lives. If we fail, we risk losing them forever because their future is broken.
GROUP: To marry off a child doesn't honor you. To marry off a child doesn't honor you.
It's not an honor. Stop giving the hands of children.
To marry a 9 year old child is a disgrace.
To wait and marry her at the age of 18 is the right thing to do.
HINOJOSA: The Emir calls upon all of the tribal chieftains throughout Gobir to attend these rallies, and take this message home.
EMIR: We have been ignorant for a very long time. Instead of school we marry our daughters and put them in hell. Please women, be wise, send your daughters to school...
HINOJOSA: There is a growing consensus that keeping girls in school is the best way to stop early marriage.
YA'HYA: If these girls had been educated then I swear to Allah they wouldn't accept it. They, themselves wouldn't accept early marriage. They would wait for the right age. They would choose their husbands. That I am sure.
HINOJOSA: But there's a problem.
A chronic shortage of schools and teachers throughout Niger means few girls have this option. Unless things change, 90% of them will remain illiterate. As unedcuated child brides, their potential is squandered, a loss for them, and for all of Niger.
The situation is less bleak in India, where there are more schools.
In Rajasthan, there is a new ray of hope for Mamta, whose mother has had a change of heart about her future.
MAMTA'S MOTHER: They said it's good to educate girls, so I am sending her to school. If she studies well she will get a job. My heart says I should educate my daughter.
HINOJOSA: Because of her good grades Mamta has been chosen to participate in a unique program for girls. She is leaving home for the first time, off to a boarding school in nearby Jodhpur. An organization called the Veerni Project is providing a home and education for some 85 girls from poor villages around Jodhpur.
WARDEN: Girls are not given much importance in this world. Men are always given more importance. When a girl is married off at a young age, she is not given much education, and her whole life is spent in darkness. So Veerni Institute, wants to bring the village girls here and give them education.
HINOJOSA: Instead of being sent to her in-laws, Mamta will go to school until she is at least 18 years old.
WARDEN: In the future, if she has any problem, if her husband troubles her, or her in laws trouble her or if she is divorced, then she can look after herself. In the future she will have a freedom.
What is your name?
WARDEN: What class are you in?
MAMTA: 5th grade
WARDEN: What village are you from?
WARDEN: We will give you a bed, utensils, pot, bedding, pillow cover, You should arrange your bed. Afterwards go and play with the children. Will you study here?
MAMTA: Yes ma'am.
HINOJOSA: By saying yes to school, Mamta has made a decision that will change the course of her life. To help her make the transition, she is given a mentor, an older student named Sunita.
SUNITA: How do you feel? You will miss your mother at first but eventually you'll like it here. Even I miss my mother sometimes. Tears will fall... but you'll be fine.
Are you married?
MAMTA: I was very small.
SUNITA: Have you seen the boy?
SUNITA: Tell your mother, until I grow up, I finish my studies and start earning- that is when I will get married. We have to go to our husband's house, but we have to be independent before we do that.
When I finish graduation in three years. I want to go in army. Did you think a woman can be in the army?.. But now women can join the army.. If you have a desire in your heart... if you think and get a goal... study with other girls. If you work hard, you are bound to be at the top of your class.
HINOJOSA: Unlike most of the girls who come to Veerni at 11 or 12, Sunita is 18. Now she is also training to join the military.
SUNITA: Whenever I used to see an army man, with his proud shoulders, I used to feel that I should also go in the army. My own sister has not studied much, she just wants to get married. But its different for me, I don't want to get married.
HINOJOSA: An avid scholar, Sunita convinced her parents an education would be more valuable than marrying her off young.
These traditions of early marriage have been around for hundreds of years. How do you think it can change?
SUNITA: The most important thing is education. If the girl, studies and gets a job and in some way supports her family then parents will think, yes we should wait till she gets older, to get her married.
I try to explain it to all the girls who come to hostel, that you should become something before going to your in-laws and if you feel that your husband is not good, just leave him.
HINOJOSA: It's hard to be a strong woman in India....
SUNITA: Yes, but still among the thousands of woman, a 100 come out who are independent and I want to be one of them. After the army, I want to go into politics. I want to be India's prime minister. My family makes fun of me about this.
HINOJOSA: But you believe you can do it!
HINOJOSA: Role models like Sunita point young girls away from child marriage. All over the world many, many more are needed. We traveled to one country where they are creating mentors to work with girls and their families.
It's the last stop on our journey —Guatemala.
From the capital, Guatemala City, we have driven 4 hours to the shores of Lago de Atitlan, a lake surrounded by volcanoes, and small villages.
We're headed to Santiago Atitlan, a traditional Mayan community on the far side of the lake.
Some 40% of the country of Guatemala are indigenous Maya, who occupy the lowest rung of the economic ladder.
Twenty-one year old Rosa left school at nine years old to help support her family.
Talk to me about the isolation of young, Mayan girls in this village.
ROSA: The boys, they do give them permission to go play a bit, have fun. But the girls, no, they have to do household things, and their parents tell them, you aren't going out anywhere because you are a girl.
HINOJOSA: By the age of 14 or 15, most Mayan girls are taken from school and kept at home to prepare for a traditional life of motherhood and bearing children.
More schooling is considered a waste of time.
ROSA: Only boys can study, girls can't. That's why it affects me a lot, why they are discriminating against women, only women.
HINOJOSA: Young girls often see marriage as the only way to create a life of their own.
ROSA: I'm seeing some girls get married at 14, even at 13. They want to get ahead but it will never turn out that way.
HINOJOSA: Marriage can mean exposure to new hardship. More than 30 years of civil war in Guatemala have left a culture of violence that has spilled over into the homes. High rates of domestic abuse and alcoholism put many child brides at risk.
If you are poor, indigenous, and you're a woman or a girl in Guatemala, what are the options for your future?
MARTA JULIA: You don't have options. You're only option is to stay in your community, perhaps get married, and have lots of kids, and continue with that cycle.
HINOJOSA: Are these girls being forced to marry or are they choosing to marry?
MARTA JULIA: I can't choose something if I don't have options to chose from.
HINOJOSA: In the town of Comalapa I meet Brenda and Daniel Fausto.
At first, their story sounds like a romantic fairy tale.
When you met Fausto what was it that you liked about him?
BRENDA: To me he was very good looking. I met him at the fair and like they say around here he was bothering me quite a bit. I got the impression that he really liked me and that he was attracted to me.
FAUSTO: She gave me what others couldn't, love, caring, and most of all understanding. That's why we got together and later got married and now we are going to have a child together.
HINOJOSA: It all sounds perfect. Except for one thing...
How old are you?
HINOJOSA: Was this the dream you had for your life? Getting married at the age of 13 and getting pregnant?
BRENDA: No, I never imagined it.
HINOJOSA: Daniel Fausto is 24 years old.
Why do you think your son married at 13 year old?
FAUSTO'S DAD: In my opinion, it's a lot easier to control a young girl.
HINOJOSA: Were you at all worried that Brenda is only?
FAUSTO: I see her as a grown woman.
HINOJOSA: When she got pregnant, Brenda dropped out of school. That was seven months ago. Whether she goes back after the baby is born is no longer up to her alone.
BRENDA: When I am done with the birth I want to continue studying and then I want to work.
HINOJOSA: What does your husband say to you?
BRENDA: Fausto is not convinced to say yes, maybe he doesn't want to, but I really want to study.
HINOJOSA: Underage, married, and pregnant, Marta Julia Ruiz is tired of seeing young Guatemalan girls in this situation.
Working with the population council and local partners she has helped create a program that provides job and life skills training to mentors. These young women can then reach out to girls like Brenda, before it's too late.
MARTA JULIA: It's about giving young women the tools to take control of their lives. We are not trying to say don't get married, don't have kids, but when they do it, that they do it because they decide to, not because someone imposes it on them or it is their only way out.
Rosa watched her own sister get married at 14 and battle an abusive husband. This was not the life she wantd for herself. Now Rosa has been recruited by Marta Julia to join the mentorship program.
Five days a week, Rosa works at Prodesca, a local NGO that provides health services. For the first time in her life she is learning business and leadership skills.
In return, Rosa will pass on what she learns by becoming a mentor for adolescent girls in her town.
Her first step is recruiting for a girl's support group.
ROSA: Little girl, I came to talk a little with you about what we're going to do with this project because we need you to be there.
I know that you don't know what self-esteem is, so I'm going to tell you a little about self-esteem, so that one day, you can have a high sense of self-worth. I want you to dream about your future.
HINOJOSA: In Brenda's community, there is no mentorship program. The only role models she had growing up were two sisters who also got married young. And now, as a 13 year old mother-to-be, she is about to face the guantlet of child birth.
BRENDA: A lot of people have told me that it is very dangerous to have a baby at 13.
HINOJOSA: Do you get scared?
BRENDA: He could lose his life, that's what they have told me. Perhaps I could die by giving birth.
HINOJOSA: What do you feel during those times?
BRENDA: I get really nervous and anxious about it but I leave it in God's hands.
HINOJOSA: Brenda has good cause to be worried. At 13, she is five times more likely to die giving birth to her child than a twenty year old woman.
If she survives, she stands a good chance of joining more than 2 million girls and women around the world who suffer the physical trauma and social isolation of fistula.
At Niger's National Hospital in the capital of Niamey, they come from all over the country, hoping to find a surgical cure for their incontinence.
Dr. Abdoulaye Idrissa is one of only three surgeons in Niger trained to handle these kinds of cases. He works just as hard to educate his patients as he does to cure them.
ABDOULAYE: Sahiya, what do we say about early marriage:
SAHIYA: We said that some people have fistulas because of early marriage.
ABDOULAYE: When they arrive, they are educated on how to understand their rights, for them to understand what it is happening to them, because for them God is the one that has made this happen. We tell them, No, it is not only God, it's especially the hand of man, the hands of society.
HINOJOSA: Habi has spent the last three months waiting for a cure, and a chance to rejoin life.
HABI: I am very happy because I am going to have the surgery. I am not afraid.
DR. ABDOULAYE: These are girls who will be old before their time. We are stealing their youth, and that is extremely sad.
HINOJOSA: In Rajasthan, at the Veerni School in Jodhpur, classes have started for Mamta, who is overwhelmed by the English language used by her teachers.
She is still homesick, and shy in her new surroundings.
In the village of Binawas, Mamta's mother is also having a tough time adjusting to life without her youngest daughter.
HINOJOSA: How hard is it for you as a woman in this village to break the tradition and to send your daughter far away for school?
MAMTA'S MOTHER: She is small, if she were older I would have been okay. What will she do alone? She hardly knows how to have a bath, comb her hair properly. I often find myself thinking about her, if I can talk to her, then I will feel better...
Is Mamta there? I can't hear anything...
Why are you crying?? Don't cry I will just come there
Why are you crying. Should I come there?? I will come soon, don't cry.
HINOJOSA: One week after her surgery, Habi is recovering well, though it's too soon to know whether she will be completely cured.
But the nightmare of her experience as a child bride has left her with a strong conviction:
Habi, if you had a little girl sometime in the future, what would you want for your daughter?
HABI: I will never give my daughter in early marriage. I don't want her to suffer like me. I will wait until she is 30 years old and give her in marriage. She will definitely go to school and succeed in her life.
HINOJOSA: More and more, the suffering of fistula patients like Habi is causing not only them, but their communities, to challenge the tradition of early marriage.
The message is even making it's way into Nigerian pop culture.
NIGER RAP SONG: Let's Analyze the Situation.....
EMIR: The old traditions, cultures change. Humanity is changing. So we can't stay waste time, we need to move forward. So this is why today I am ready, I am totally committed to fighting early marriage.
HINOJOSA: Change too, is coming to Guatemala. In a classroom in Santiago Atitlan, Rosa has gathered girls and their mothers from her community, and created a safe place for them to explore alternatives to child marriage.
ROSA: The purpose of this project is for the girls to know about their rights.
MOTHER: We need workshops and training for the girls. We would like the project to start as soon as possible, so that our girls can start benefiting from it.
How has your life changed, becoming involved with this program?
ROSA. Before I wasn't like this, I was afraid to talk with people. "I'm nothing, I'm just a girl, I'm not a professional, maybe they'll make fun of me." Now I'm seeing a difference, I'm getting over my fear. That's what I want, for me to leave my fear behind, for them to see that I am a strong woman.
HINOJOSA: With her first week of school behind her, Mamta is finally settling in at the Veerni School.
What is your favorite subject so far?
MAMTA: I like Hindi.
HINOJOSA: When you first came here were you a little bit afraid? To come so far away to school?
MAMTA: When I first came I was scared, I didn't know what the school would be like. Now I'm liking it in this school.
HINOJOSA: Mamta has moved from fear to enthusiasm.
As she continues her schooling, she'll gain the self confidence to shape her own future.
What that means for her child marriage is a question for down the road... but it's a question that Mamta will now have the power to answer for herself.
And that's it for NOW. I'm Maria Hinojosa for David Brancaccio. We'll see you back here next week.