Stephanie Sinclair, the award-winning photographer behind the 'Too Young to Wed' exhibit, returns to India to meet a group of girls who had the courage to refuse early marriages.
RAJASTHAN, India – Keshanta Gujar, 16, wants to be a teacher. Rajyanti Bairwa, 17, hopes to become a doctor.
Laali Bairwa, 15, isn't sure just yet what she wants to be when she grows up. But she, like her classmates in a rural part of Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan, is certain she doesn't want to be a child bride.
"My life would be ruined," said Rajyanti, who at 16 resisted her parents' efforts to marry her off. "I refused the marriage because I want to study and be something."
Keshanta and Laali were 13 years old when their families pushed them to get married. Like Rajyanti, they refused, and, with the help of their teachers, persuaded their parents to let them continue their education.
In India, where 47 per cent of girls are married before the age of 18, refusals like these are few and far between. But programmes aimed at educating and empowering girls are beginning to bear fruit, giving these girls the confidence to say "no" to early marriage, which, for many, would once have been a foregone conclusion.
Those advocating for an end to child marriage say it's hardly a trend at this point, as India still has one of the world's highest child marriage rates. In fact, an estimated 26 million Indian women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before their 18th birthdays, and another 28 million will face the same fate over the next two decades if current trends continue, according to data gathered by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
Read the full story by Edie Gross and view photos by VII photographer Stephanie Sinclair on NBCNews' PHOTOBLOG.
'Too Young to Wed' is a multimedia partnership between UNFPA, The United Nations Population Fund, and the VII photo agency. It seeks to raise awareness about child marriage and ultimately, to end it.