I have seen great travesties in my travels. The victims are diverse. They speak different languages, are from different cultural and religious backgrounds, have different levels of education...but the one thing they share is gender. Girls are viewed, in most parts of the world, to have value in only two things: 1) hard domestic labour and 2) childbearing. Girls who are born into families in rural Senegal are especially prone to these designations. The average age of marriage is 12 - just before puberty. Most of the marriages are polygamous and are arranged. The girl is bought and paid for with no voice or opinion. She works hard until she menstruates. Then this girl is considered ready to fulfill her second duty - motherhood.
These girls have a 5 times higher risk of dying due to pregnancy complications. This is a 5 times higher than the already perilously high risk for women in their 20's. They are children. These girls are simply following the path that their mother and grandmother did before them.
We must break the cycle. Give these girls a voice of power. How? How can generations of tradition and belief change? The answer is not simple, but it is possible - keep the mothers alive and empower them with economic contributions and education opportunities. By resourcing these girls with opportunity, their value will move beyond mules and baby machines. They will produce goods and money for their families. Thus giving them power.
Do not forget these silent sufferers. Remember these forgotten girls.