Meet, for example, Regina Gisput. At 16, she is as ambitious as any Minnesota girl her age, studying a heavy load of physics, chemistry and math in hopes of becoming a doctor.

Few American girls, though, have faced obstacles as formidable as she is fighting. When Regina was 13 years old, her father expected her to marry as was the custom in her rural Maasai village. Her family needed the bride-price a groom would pay either in cash or in livestock.

Regina knew all too well her future in that married life. She had seen that future through the lives of girls and women in her village: She would work at hard labor for her husband, likely an older man with other wives. She would bear children before her own child body was fully formed and ready to deliver them. She would own very little; and if her husband died before her, his land, cattle and other possessions would pass to his family.

Regina made a bold escape from that destiny.

At her primary school, she had taken a qualification exam for secondary school. She passed. And the head of the primary school told her on the last school day that she could leave immediately for the MaaSAE school in Monduli without going home.

Regina took the offer. And she arrived at the boarding school, like many of her fellow students, with nothing but the clothes she had worn that day.

It was effectively a one-way decision for Regina. She can’t go back to her village.

Keep reading Pulitzer Center grantee Sharon Schmickle’s report about girls’ fight for education in Tanzania here. Images by Sharon Schmickle. Tanzania, 2013.

An amazing story