|“I preferred being a student to a mum,” Sari* says, cradling her child. ©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Nick Baker.|
Countless small villages dot the western coastline of Sulawesi Island. Rows of rumah panggung (traditional houses) are set between pristine beaches and thick, rolling jungle. It looks like paradise. But these communities are the scene of a silent crisis.
Child marriage is prevalent across West Sulawesi. The province has the highest rate of girls married at 15 years or younger in Indonesia. For a variety of reasons – cultural, religious, economic – childhoods are lost here on a daily basis.
Ayu* is one such girl. The softly-spoken teenager lives in a farming village called Amara*. “Both my mother and grandmother were married at 14,”she says. And the family tradition continued: “I was 15 when I got married and my husband, Ganes, was 23.”