Three of the world’s most influential women have told BBC News they want to end child marriage within a generation.
Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney and Melinda French Gates announced last year a collaboration between their foundations to combat the problem.
At the current rate of progress, the UN has warned it will not be eradicated for 300 years.
But former First Lady Mrs Obama told BBC News: “It is an issue that can be solved tomorrow.”
The three women spoke exclusively to BBC 100 Women during a visit to Malawi and South Africa.
“I’m sorry,” said 26-year-old Lucy, as she choked back tears. “I feel emotional.”
Around the table, three of the world’s most influential humanitarians – Melinda French Gates, Amal Clooney and Michelle Obama – had quietly listened to her story.
According to the NGO, Girls Not Brides, Malawi has one of the highest child marriage rates in Eastern and Southern Africa, with 42% of girls already married by the age of 18. In Mchinji District, where Ludzi Girls school is located, 33% of girls are reported to fall pregnant before they reach 18, and leave education.
Lucy could have been one of those girls. Her father had wanted her out of school when she was 14, but she resisted, and later became the first girl in her village to go to university. Now, with a degree in education, she is a district leader for AGE Africa, an organisation that provides scholarships for vulnerable girls in Malawi, a country where secondary education is not free. Lucy was once a student in the programme, and now she helps girls like herself.
Written by: Safiya Wada