‘I want to stand on my own two feet’

Defying her parents, Mala Akter married Rony, the boy she loved, when she was 12. After two years of his verbal and physical abuse, a baby and the daily struggle to put food on the table, she thinks “getting married was a bad idea.” Mala dreams of a future where she can make something of herself because “my child is young. I want to bring him up properly. I don’t want anybody else to make the same mistakes I did.”


My name is Mala Akter. I’m 14 years old. I got married 2½ years ago.

When I was 12 years old and at school, I was in love with a boy. I loved him very much, and we got married. My parents did not like that.

I live in Agargaon, the BNP Bazaar slum.

My husband’s name is Rony. He used to love me very much, but after we got married, he started mistreating me. Two days ago, he verbally abused me and beat me.

He abuses me.

If he doesn’t work every day, it becomes hard to support the family. Five days, or even two days, it’s hard.

For example, in this hot weather, he can’t make any sales. When it rains, it becomes difficult to make sales. Then police appear and tell us to move on.

There are times when we have nothing to eat. A few days ago, due to a strike, the shop remained closed. All we had to eat was lentils, mashed potatoes and sometimes some vegetables. It was difficult, but that’s how things were.

It is also difficult for my husband to stand in the heat and sell things. It’s also difficult for my child.

Because we don’t eat regularly, we’re often weak and dizzy. Everything hurts.

Sometimes, I feel like I need to sit down. But when I get up, I feel faint. I feel very weak and sick.

I regret I got married.

If I would have married a little later, maybe my health would be better. Everything would have been better.

Getting married was a big mistake.

I want to do something in the future. I want to stand on my own two feet.

My child is still young. I want to raise him. I don’t want anyone else to make the same mistake I made.

A version of this video originally appeared on Facebook.

Global perspective

Percentage of women married before 18
10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60%
Show map

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)