The Child Within

When marriage starts, education ends. Give a girl her future. Send her to school.

The Child Within

To be a pregnant child is to be terrified. Girls between 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s and 25,000 children marry every day, 19 every minute. Camfed is part of the international movement to end child marriage and motherhood.

Our film, The Child Within, is an unflinching portrait of three girls, three unique individuals, who are among the statistics.

The Child Within was made in 2011 in rural Malawi, in a district where pregnancy is the prime cause of school drop out in 50 percent of cases. As an education charity, we work with government health and education services and traditional leaders to get girls into school and keep them there, helping to prevent child pregnancy. And we help pregnant girls and child mothers return to school.

Elina, who was struggling in 2011 to provide for herself and her son, is now back at school: her relatives help with childcare. Ndaziona, a 15 year old frightened at the prospect of giving birth, now has a healthy baby son although she still lacks the confidence to return to school. Nabena wants to go back to school next year and is a member of a support group that is helping her reintegrate into the community.

All three girls want to share their stories and want other girls, their families and communities to understand the heavy emotional and physical pressures of child motherhood. The film is a powerful demonstration of this – but the stories of the girls today also shows there is hope. "When we help children go to school we interrupt the vicious circle of poverty," says Angeline Murimirwa, Executive Director for Camfed Zimbabwe and Camfed Malawi. "This way, communities see what can become of their daughters when given a chance."

Nabena and Child

It didn't feel right to me that I could be so young and give birth.

Nabena, 15

Camfed films

Camfed stories

Live Feed

Zulie shares the story of her 14 year old sister
Afisha, who is engaged to be married.

When Felicia finished her primary school her

parents arranged for her to be married. She was 11.

Sadia returned to school after becoming pregnant

at 17. Now she she runs a business: a pre-school!

Read the story of Josephine, a local official who
knows first-hand of the struggle girls face.

When Fatuma's father died, the 12 year old

worried she would have to marry like her sisters.

Most of the girls Aneth started school with

were pregnant by the time she finished.

Child Marriage: the facts


- An estimated 10 million girls aged under 18 are married worldwide each year.

- In the developing world, one in seven girls is married before her 15th birthday and some child brides are as young as eight or nine.

- An estimated 3,500 girls under 15 become child brides every day. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death among them.

- Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. Girls aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die.

- Girls under 18 are at much higher risk of pregnancy-related injuries such as fistulas.

- Child brides are at greater risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases than unmarried, sexually active girls of the same age.

- The children of child brides are 60% more likely to die before their first birthday than the children of mothers who are over 19.

- Even if the child survives, he or she is more likely to suffer from low birth weight, under nutrition and late physical and cognitive development.

- Child brides are almost always forced to leave school when, or before, they get married.

(Sources: Unicef, White Ribbon Alliance, Girls Not Brides, World Vision)

When I was eight months pregnant my husband ran away and never came back. I faced a lot of challenges trying to survive and even feed myself and the baby. I realised if I was educated I would not be in that situation. So I came back to school to solve that for myself.

Catherine - a mother at 15. Catherine is one of several child mothers that Camfed is supporting to return to school.

Malawi - context

Camfed works to educate girls in Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

We encounter child marriage and early pregnancy in all the areas in which we work. In Malawi, the issue is particularly pressing: Unicef estimates that 50 percent of girls in the country are married by the age of 18. At six children per woman, Malawi has one of the highest fertility rates in the world and there is a direct link between education levels, birth rates, early marriage and maternal mortality.


I am 7 months pregnant. My body has aches and pains - when I think about it I become upset and angry.

Ndaziona, 15

Getting more girls into school is key. Here are some of the challenges:

An acute lack of secondary school places

There are 5,395 primary schools in Malawi and only 1,041 secondary schools. Of the 40 percent of students who completed primary school in 2008, only 8 percent progressed to secondary school.


Schools are often a long distance from children's homes, leaving girls in particular vulnerable to abuse during travel to and from school or in often unsupervised accommodation.

Lack of teachers

In rural areas, there were only 1,156 female teachers in 2009/10, compared to 6,522 male teachers. Young girls need role models to encourage them to stay in and complete school.

What is Camfed doing?

Camfed offers a well-tested, replicable and scalable model for getting significantly higher numbers of girls into school, and ensuring they complete their education.

We provide girls with comprehensive bursaries that meet all of their school-going costs, from school fees to uniforms to room and board, as well as psychosocial support to address problems that threaten to disrupt their education. This is key to tackling child marriage.

Camfed’s interventions have measurably improved girls’ school enrolment, retention and academic achievements.

  • Camfed supported girls across all countries have consistently achieved a retention rate of above 90%.
  • Across all partner schools in 2008, the date of our last baseline survey, Camfed-supported girls in secondary school had attendance rates of 94.7%.
  • In Tanzanian schools, where the Camfed programme is well established, girls’ share of enrolment increased by 7% between 2005 and 2007, to 48%.
Preventing drop-out before the tipping point age of 13-14 and ensuring that girls make progression from primary school to secondary school is the most promising approach for curtailing child marriage.

Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education