This photo documentary series was the winner of the Documentary Category, Mini-Series in the LensCulture Visual Storytelling Awards 2015. Discover more inspiring work from all of the winners and finalists.

The first photograph I showed to the Georgian public was a photo of a seventeen-year old at her wedding. She had only met her soon–to–be husband, a man in his mid-twenties, on the day of their engagement. As tears dropped from her eyes, she danced in front of her house. The dance demonstrated a farewell to her family, before the wedding ceremony.

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When I was very little, I remember how two of my classmates were married; at age 13 and 14. I didn’t really know what it meant, but it affected me emotionally.

According to statistics, Georgia has one of the highest rates of early marriages in Europe (17%). Approximately 7,000 girls aged 13 to 15 stopped attending schools across the country in the 2011­-12 academic year. The government does not possess information regarding the reasons for dropping out, but Georgia’s human rights ombudsman reported that 341 girls dropped out of school to get married. These are arranged marriages where the consent of a girl is not required.

The WHO and other organizations have called on Georgia’s government to formally declare early marriage a human rights violation. However, the state hasn’t managed to take proactive steps in this direction and society is neither aware nor interested in this issue. Additionally, Georgia does not support sex education in schools; it is a taboo subject that people don’t talk about across the country.

At the end of the project, I want to provide a medium for the exchange of ideas and views, where young girls will have the opportunity to share their thoughts between each other anonymously if desired. I believe this kind of platform will give the people the opportunity to bring this issue into public focus and generate a discussion.

—Daro Sulakauri