Tongogadima/ Abou Boutila- Cameroon- December 2016
Child marriage stories from Cameroon
In Eastern Cameroon 48% of girls are married before the age of 18.
Only 62 % of the girls in the East go to school, 9% of which were forced to have their first
Thirteen Stolen Smiles is a story raising awareness of child marriage. Photographed in Eastern Cameroon in 2016, it looks at the experience of four young girls (Elisabeth,
Mirabelle, Mariam and Delphine) married or promised for marriage at the age of 13.
In addition to its focus on an issue of social concern, the series blends portraiture with details of features or pieces of fabric, as if to create a proximity between the photographed young girls and the viewer. It also presents multiple interpretations of home from indoor
spaces to desolate ruins left in the village, almost as a metaphor for a life’s journey poised between loss, of innocence, of one’s freedom, and the resilience of those teen mothers now carers of even younger lives.
13 years old and a whole life in front of you, the hope to grow up one day and maybe become a doctor to save millions of children.
13 years old, the first love stories, the games outside the school, the first true friends and the
first big aspirations.
13 years old the first songs full of dreams, the first books taken heart.
Sometimes though, at 13 years old life isn’t anything like this. Gado Cameroon, about 50
km from the border with Central African Republic in the Eastern part of Cameroon, girls at 13 years old with their childish fine bodies and deep mature gaze have eyes full of sadness; at this age they are given away in marriage and they leave school.
Elisabeth, Mariam, Delphine and Mirabelle come from different backgrounds and places,
Elisabeth and Mariam fled their countries to escape war and found shelter and protection in
two families who gave them away for marriage at age 13, whereas Delphine and Mirabelle left school to go in their husbands homes at the same age, age in which you should be thinking about building your future and living your freedom.