A group of nuns in Burkina Faso have founded a shelter for girls who have escaped from forced marriages to continue their education and learn skills to pursue a career.
Forced marriages are illegal in Burkina Faso but remain common, especially in rural areas.
In the insurgent-hit north and center of the country, schools have been forced to close due to conflict.
And with 40% of the population live below the poverty line, families marry their daughters early so they have fewer mouths to feed.
“We lived in Pissila village until we had to move away because terrorists were attacking the place,” a girl called Evelyne, who did not wish to use her real name, told Reuters. “My grand father then called my mother to tell her to bring me to him because he wanted to organize my marriage. I overheard this and escaped to come here.”
She is among more than 100 girls who are now studying at Sainte Maria Goretti shelter in Kaya.
Many of the girls have gone through harrowing experiences to escape from their homes to the shelter, Sister Veronique Kanssono, who works at the shelter, told Reuters.
“Some of them were beaten, they arrived here covered in lash marks,” Kanssono said.
“I would like to make an appeal, we should all come together to stop these practices. They honour our customs, but they don’t honor human beings,” she added.
More than 500 million girls and women have been forced into marriages around the world, according to UNICEF.