‘When I got married, I cried’

With lenders “pressing hard” on her widowed mother, 11-year-old Babogai went from a childhood selling firewood and paper to help her family, to a young wife overwhelmed by her responsibilities and overburdened by her husband and his family’s expectations. Back at home after two months, she sells paper again for 10 or 20 afghanis.


My name’s Babogai.

I’m 11 years old.

I’ve been married for six months.

Before I was married, I collected waste papers. I was working with my mom. She’s sick.

This is how I came here. My father was martyred.

When my father died in Helmand province, we moved here.

My mother borrowed money from people, and they came and took me.

We have nobody.

This is my oldest brother. This is my mother.

We had a loan to pay. She had to give me to them.

I was crying. I wanted someone to help. But we had no choice. The lenders were pressing hard.

Then everyone said to my mother, ‘If you don’t have the money to pay, give them your daughter instead.’

When I got married, I cried.

Two months ago, I came back to my mom’s home.

My husband’s family asked me to work a lot. But I didn’t know how to do these things.

For this reason, I have come here. My mom is teaching me how to do the work.

My life’s the same as before. I used to go outside in the morning or afternoon to collect firewood and waste paper.

Even on my wedding day, I was collecting metal and papers. I was selling it for 10 or 20 afghanis (26 cents). There were days that I didn’t even make 1 afghani.

Whenever I make money, I’m able to buy food for my sisters and brothers.

If I bring bread, they eat. If not, they are sitting hungry and thirsty with nothing.

We work as laborers for others. We earn 20 afghanis, 50 afghanis.

I have shortness of breath. When it’s cold, I can’t breathe.

When it gets cold, I can’t breathe. I have to lie down. Then, I feel upset like I am burning inside.

I feel like my heart is on fire.

Global perspective

Percentage of women married before 18
10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60%
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United States


The number of children married per 1,000, ages 15-17 years old

(That's about .6%
of 15- to 17-year-olds .)

The term ‘child marriage’ refers to formal marriages and informal unions in which a girl or boy under age 18 lives with a partner as if married. In an informal union, a couple lacks a formal civil or religious ceremony. Our graphic is based on United Nations information. The main sources are national census and household surveys, including the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). Surveys are subject to sampling and measurement error. We used the U.N. child marriage and population figures to approximate how many women in each country were married before 15 and before 18.

Source: “Child Marriage Database”. UNICEF (March 2018)

“World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision”. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017)