From mother
to daughter

Child brides
Text, photos and video by Matteo Bastianelli

From mother to daughter

When child brides grow and turn into women, their lives are already marked, as is their gaze, harsh and knowing. According to a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, there are currently over 650 million women throughout the world who were given up for marriage as girls. Child marriage often comes with premature pregnancies and births in which the mother’s mortality rate is above average.

40-year-old Orkida Driza is seen with her three grandchildren Vjollca (5 yrs old), Sabina (3 yrs old) and Rexhepi (3 months old) on the bed of her 19-year-old daughter Bleona, who is resting under the covers next to them. Orkida was given in marriage at the tender age of 14 by her family, her daughter Bleona got married at 12 years old. Tirana, Albania 2019

Orkida was 14 years old when she was given up for marriage by her family in Albania, as she explains to InsideOver: “These are life’s misfortunes. We had family problems. My sister had bad kidneys and wanted to be operated on, but my mother couldn’t afford to pay for it. So my mother began working in a Komunale (physically demanding state activities such as repairing roads) with a friend of hers who asked her to give me up as a bride for her son in return for having her daughter operated. With this wedding I have saved my sister, but it has been hell for me. I have suffered so much.”

40-year-old Orkida Driza portrayed while standing in the window of her home. Orkida was given in marriage at the tender age of 14 by her family, she’s divorced now and has five children. Orkida is already a grandmother, having given her daughter in marriage at the age of 12. Tirana, Albania 2019

It was a true ordeal, impossible to imagine. “My husband drank and would beat me. I had so many family problems that I was forced to work like a man, carrying sacks on my back in order to be able to feed my children. It came to the point where I was forced to leave my husband due to him drinking and beating me and so I moved to Tirana.”

Here, she ends up on the streets. When she meets a young man from the Roma community, she believes she will finally find some peace. But it is not to be. She had, once again, fallen into the arms of a man who drank and beat her. So she ran away and met the man she currently lives with.

40-year-old Orkida Driza portrayed in the courtyard of her home. Orkida was given in marriage at the tender age of 14 by her family, she’s divorced now and has five children. She is currently the leader of the Roman Organization “Catia e Gruas Rome”, which stands for the rights of the Roma minorities in Tirana, Albania 2019

Today, Orkida is 40 years old. She has five children and, having given her daughter Bleona away in marriage at the age of 12, is already a grandmother. Bleona is 18 and has three children herself. From mother to daughter, the vicious circle never seems to end. The factors behind it are always the same: poverty and illiteracy.

18-year-old Xhensila Bukri portrayed in front of her apartment with her 2-month-old son Arben Bukri on her lap and her daughters Megi (2 yrs old) and Pamela (3 yrs old) standing next to her. Xhensila was given in marriage at the tender age of 12, her husband is currently in prison. Tirana, Albania 2019

From southern Asia to Sub-Saharian Africa, crossing through the humanitarian crises in the Middle East to the heart of Europe: every year, at least 12 million young girls are married off before they reach the age of maturity. That means 28 girls per minute. For these girls, matrimony is not a choice; it marks the end of their childhood and the start of an uncertain future, depriving them of the chance to make decisions about their lives and exposing them to violence and abuse.

40-year-old Orkida Driza is seen talking with other members of the Romani community living in the settlement, while some kids play around a motorcycle cart . Orkida was given in marriage at the tender age of 14 by her family, she’s divorced now and has five children. She is currently the leader of the Roman Organization “Catia e Gruas Rome”, which stands for the rights of the Roma minorities in Tirana, Albania 2019

It’s a transcultural phenomenon, common to people far apart who live in the same poor conditions, such as those within Tirana’s Roma community in Albania. For many families here, such as that of Orkida, giving a daughter away in marriage is a means of survival like any other. Once the girls reach the age of maturity, nearly all of them already have several children to look after while their husbands are in prison. Their eyes are sometimes swollen while torn wedding photographs hang on the wall behind them.

Half of a torn wedding photo of the groom, hanging on a wall inside a Roma community settlement in Tirana. Child marriage affects girls in far greater numbers than boys. According to Save the Children, every year, 12 million girls and young women all over the world marry before the age of 18. Tirana, Albania 2019

According to a report by Save the Children, the majority of child brides do not receive adequate schooling and professional training opportunities, often having been forced to drop out of school or not been allowed to return as a consequence of the early marriage. It is hard for them to leave the invisible prison they have been confined to since an early age, yet some have succeeded.

Some kids are playing with fake money on the sidewalk inside a Roma community settlement in Tirana, Albania 2019

After having suffered under the hands of her husband who drank and beat her, Orkida decided to divorce and became the leader of the “Catia and Gruas Rome” organization which supports the rights of the Roma minorities.

Text, photos and video by Matteo Bastianelli
Voice of America has been working on a global project regarding the issue of child brides around the world for over a year.
Here is that project: https://projects.voanews.com/child-marriage/