by Sarah Degnan Kambou, PhD, president of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
Iredjourèma was born in 1935 to a traditional healer in Burkina Faso. She was the third of ten children, and lost her mother when she was 12.
As a young girl, Iredjourèma was regarded as a talented, graceful dancer. She was smart, too. But she never had the opportunity to attend school because she was needed to tend the family’s sheep. At 16, Iredjourèma’s family arranged for her to marry a man eight years her senior. She carried nine pregnancies to term, and nearly died giving birth to her youngest child.
Today, there are more than 50 million child brides like Iredjourèma worldwide, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Child marriage — the practice of marrying girls younger than 18, often to much older men — is a violation of girls’ human rights. It also compromises their education, health, well-being, and productivity.