Inside her small home in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, Destaye flips through her old notebooks from school: geography, physics, chemistry.
“By reading and doing my homework, I hoped it would give me a better future,” she says wistfully.
But Destaye’s life is markedly different than she’d hoped. She was married at 11 to a man twice her age. And though her husband said she could continue her studies, her duties as a wife—and now the mother of an infant—got in the way, and at 15, she no longer attends school.
The short film examining Destaye’s fate, shot and produced last summer by photographers Jessica Dimmock and Stephanie Sinclair, was awarded first prize this year in World Press Photo’s online feature category.
In terms of production value and storytelling, the pool for this year’s multimedia contest was the strongest that jury chairman Keith W. Jenkins said he’d ever seen. Jenkins, the supervising senior producer for multimedia at NPR, specifically praised the natural feel and pacing of the “Two Young to Wed” video featuring Destaye’s tale.
“There were places where the silence told the story. Other places where you lingered on somebody’s face, and their eyes or how their hands were positioned . . . all of that was important to the story. It became more about the cumulative effect of how this story was told as opposed to the individual elements, which, on the surface could have looked very stereotypical,” he said. “It left us wanting to know what was going to happen next.”
Publicizing Destaye’s story—and the plight of millions of girls just like her all over the world—is the full-time focus of Too Young to Wed. In fact, Dimmock and Sinclair are traveling in Tanzania right now in an effort to document one of the long-term negative consequences of child marriage: obstetric fistula.
It’s a devastating medical condition caused by prolonged obstructed labor, something young girls with underdeveloped bodies are particularly susceptible to. The effort leaves them with a hole in their birth canal, leading to chronic incontinence as well as ulcerations, kidney disease and nerve damage in the legs. It’s estimated that 2 million women in Africa, Asia and the Arab region are living with fistula—and as many as 100,000 new cases may be reported each year.
Through documentary photography and video, Dimmock and Sinclair hope to raise awareness of the problem as well as the treatment available to those suffering from fistula. Throughout the trip, which runs into the first week of March, they’ll be posting images on Instagram, which you can see on the @2young2wed feed.
Their trip also overlaps with the World Day of Social Justice, celebrated on Feb. 20. It’s designated by the UN General Assembly as a time to highlight the efforts of the international community to eradicate poverty, provide education and decent working conditions, promote gender equity, and provide a just and safe society for everyone.
To that end, we’d like to express our gratitude to all the journalists who are working so hard to promote the cause of social justice, whether it’s telling the stories of civilians who are struggling to survive in war-torn communities, exposing the excesses of regimes that have little respect for their citizens, giving a voice to the poor, the sick, the homeless or otherwise marginalized members of our society—or working to end child marriage and preserve the futures of girls like Destaye.
We thank you.