Five cows – that was the dowry that Teriano Lesancha was being sold for.
At just 13, her father had told her she had to get married.
Child marriage was a tradition in the Maasai tribe in Kenya. One by one, Teriano’s school friends had been pulled out of school to marry, and Teriano’s turn had come.
She’d dreamed of university, but her education would be over once she married. She’d be forced to stay home, do domestic work and bear children. She knew she had to do something.
Teriano was a World Vision-sponsored child. She argued with her father that her sponsorship supported her education financially, and so she wouldn’t be a burden to the family.
Then her mother said the fateful words that would change Teriano’s life: “If you go to college, you may help us more than if you get married.”
That was more than 20 years ago.
Today, Teriano is the first person in her village to have obtained a postgraduate degree.
She never did marry the man to whom she was betrothed, instead working with World Vision Kenya and travelling around the world as an activist.
And she’s helping other women to stand up for their right to a childhood and an education.
“It all started with one family choosing to sponsor one child. Helping that one girl, you don’t know how many other lives you can touch,” she says.
“I will do all that I can to help other girls who might be going through a difficult time as I was in. Having compassion in your heart isn’t enough – it’s important to act. The difference can be much bigger than you think.”
But child marriage continues to be rife across the developing world. Globally, it’s estimated that a child bride is married every two seconds. That’s a staggering 15 million girls each year.
Causes of child marriage are complex, and often driven by engrained tradition and poverty.
For struggling families, their best chance of survival could be marrying off their daughters, because they can’t afford to keep them.
But like Teriano, more girls can change their destinies by gaining equal access to education.
Programs like World Vision’s child sponsorship program can support girls to go to school and escape the harsh realities of child marriage or work.
World Vision is working to help millions of other girls in the developing world who are trapped by harsh realities like child marriage. You can help. Sponsor a girl today.