Jennifer Koons

International Journalist
   
Disrupting the Narrative: Child Brides
Location: Washington, D.C.
Biography: JENNIFER KOONS is a foreign policy reporter, a former foreign correspondent in the Middle East and a national security editor. She is a contributor for The Atlantic and The Lily , among other publications.  She is the author of the... MORE
Public Story
Disrupting the Narrative: Child Brides
Copyright Jennifer Koons 2022
Updated Jun 2020
Location Niger
Topics Abandonment, Abortion, Abuse, Action, Adolescence, Adoption, Aging, Belief, Birth, Child Marriage, Children, Community, Confrontation, Domestic Violence, Dying/Death, Editorial, Emotion, Essays, Faith, Family, Fear, Feminism, Freedom, Gender, Girls Education, Happiness, Health/Healing, Human Rights, Islam, Isolation, Joy, Loss, Love, Mental Illness, Migration, Motherhood, NGO, Oppression, Parenting & Family, Peace, Peacekeeping, Photography, Photojournalism, Politics, Portraiture, Poverty, Pregnancy/Birth, Privacy, Rape, Relationships, Religion, Reporting, School/College, Sexuality, Sorrow, Trauma, Violence, Womens Rights, Youth
Occasionally, I'll imagine a journalist from one of the countries where I've worked, touching down in D.C. and asking me to invite her into my home, sit with my family and tell her my life's greatest heartbreak and struggle. During those moments of reflection, the privilege of sharing someone else's story has felt overwhelming and, occasionally, immobilizing. The mutual trust that must exist between me and the person who is making herself vulnerable is heavy. And for good reason. As we know, with the responsibility, comes the power (and the privilege).

I think often about the juxtaposition of the photos I'm sharing here of Haoua, left, and Samira, and Samira's mother, Salmou. I think about the difference between deciding to run the "joyful" photos or the "despondent" ones. I took each shot within a few minutes, sometimes even seconds, of the each other. The "sad"/"distant" ones fit the narrative.

Over the course of several days, these two girls shared some of the most intimate moments of their lives with me, stories that fell under a "subject" I was reporting on: child marriage. The "subjects" and "sources" shared some of the most sensitive and complex experiences of their lives. Haoua, Samira, and Salmou before them, married very, very young. That decision — made by others on each of their behalves — has had many repercussions. Those marriages have shaped and are shaping their lives. There's a story there. A larger story. And then there are their stories.

What I never want to be obscured is this: these women have many stories to tell. Not the least of which is their deep sisterhood, their roles as caretakers and guardians, and their self-determination. I'm grateful too for the heaviness and the reckoning, for every single opportunity to do better, to challenge my assumptions and take moments like this one to reflect on the privilege of sharing their stories.
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Disrupting the Narrative: Child Brides by Jennifer Koons
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