Every year, around the world 10 million girls under the age of 18 enter into early and forced marriages. They are usually married to much older men and enter into marriage with little or no information about their sexual and reproductive health, including contraception, safe motherhood, and preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Girls who marry early also face a greater risk of experiencing violence from their husbands.

In Cameroon, it is estimated that 36% of girls are married before they are 18. But in the Extreme North of Cameroon, where IWHC’s partner APAD is based, nearly 80% have experienced an early and forced marriage. APAD (in English, Association for the Promotion of the Independence and Rights of the Girl Child) is led by young women who are survivors of child marriage. They work to empower girls like them, and to make sure survivors are able to tell their stories, demand social change, and survive on their own.

This spring when IWHC visited with APAD, they shared some of their stories and explained how they are working to change the cultural values that lead to girls being married off as children.