Written by: Natsai Musarurwa (Founder of Rated 18 Shoes)
Within the time it takes you to read this sentence at least one underage girl would have been married off. It's estimated that each year 12 million girls are married before they turn 18, and no matter where you live it's also happening in your own back yard (if you don't believe me look it up). But for some reason child marriage is an issue that so many people know nothing about.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not shaming anyone for not knowing the extent of this problem or that it even exists, I only became aware of the practice in 2015. I was fortunate enough to have a very sheltered middle-class upbringing which, in a sense, unfortunately made me oblivious to some of the terrible realities of the world. Of course I knew the world wasn't all rainbows and unicorns but the only global issues I knew about were those that were constantly broadcast on tv or talked about at social gatherings, and child marriage just never made the headlines. If you happen to miss that one media feature about child marriage on a particular day you could go through life not knowing it’s actually a thing, which was the case for me for almost 23 years.
This isn't to say that other problems in the world should get less attention, but I definitely believe that issues such as child marriage need to be just as consistently in the limelight too. Not so that people are forced to care, there's so much happening every day that it's just not feasible for us to invest ourselves in every single injustice that exists, but so that at the very least people know that this is something that actually happens.
12 million girls each year - that's 33,000 everyday, 23 every minute and 1 every 3 seconds - get into marriages (some as young as 7 years old) where they are forced to drop out of school, are physically and sexually abused, fall pregnant early and are denied their basic rights by their much older husbands and families. Our mission as Rated 18 Shoes is to be a vessel for their emancipation by giving these girls and women a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it's just a glimmer. We also want to do our part to make more people aware that child marriage exists so that more people can join the fight to end it; and even if you choose not to join the fight that's alright, as long as you know.