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Married at 12, Yakoura is Determined to Stop Her Sister From Experiencing the Same Fate 

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Child Marriage

The now 20-year-old Yakoura* had to experience what one in every 5 girls experience globally. She was forced to get married at only 12 years old to an abusive man three times her age. When she fell pregnant her husband sent her back home, claiming he could no longer stand her. This is when she found out she was HIV positive. Having lived through these traumatic experiences Yakoura is now fighting to put an end to Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and child marriage, for her little sister and all girls in her community.

One in 5, child marriage infographic
Figure from UNFPA

Yakoura is now a key advocate for Girls’ Rights. She recently took part in the third African Girls Summit held in Niamey, Niger to share her story with girls from across Africa. 

“I didn’t know that my story would make so many people in the room cry when I spoke at the summit. I was very proud and happy to be there and tell my story. It was an opportunity for me to speak about the consequences of early marriage and to advocate for the importance of medical visits for girls and their partners before marriage, which can protect girls from harmful diseases. The silence in the room when I spoke was one of the most unforgettable memories of my life.

Impact of Lake Chad crisis

Yakoura and her family were severely impacted by the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad region. They fled from the conflict in Nigeria after her family was attacked late at night by armed men. Her father was killed during the attack. The rest of her family managed to cross the border into the Diffa region in Niger. Displaced from her home and without any income, Yakoura’s mother struggled to support her family. She decided to marry Yakoura off to a man three times her age when she was 12 years old. 

Many families like Yakouras’, feel they are forced to marry their daughters into marriage for dowries. Although Yakoura’s mother regrets her decision to force her daughter into marriage, she felt she had no other option. “I am aware that I should not have married my daughter at such a young age, but I had no choice, I thought it would offer her a better life.”

While other girls had the opportunity to go to school Yakoura was stuck in an abusive marriage. “I couldn’t be happy when he beat me or insulted me. I tried several times to run away to my mother’s home, but she always took me back to his house,” Yakoura tells us. 

When she fell pregnant her husband decided to send her back to her mother’s house. At the beginning of the pregnancy, she often got sick. Then at the hospital she got the diagnosis: HIV positive.

Plan International’s work

Plan International is supporting Yakoura with psychosocial support and antiretroviral medication to help her manage her HIV and lead a healthy life. Through our work we aim to protect girls from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in the Lake Chad Region.  

Plan International works alongside the government and local communities to challenge the social norms, harmful practices and attitudes that impact girls’ lives and prevent them from releasing their rights. To achieve this, we educate and protect girls so they feel confident to voice their opinions and concerns.

Yakoura keeps on fighting against GBV and is determined to prevent her little sister from experiencing the same fate.

Yakoura, 20, Girls' Rights advocate, Niger

*Name has been changed to protect identity