After enduring 13 years of physical and psychological torture, Berivan Elif Kilic decided to leave the husband she was forced to marry and commit her life to protecting other young girls from enduring the same horror.
When Kilic was just 15, she was taken out of school, married off to a cousin and gave birth to two children soon after, the Daily Beast reported. Though the legal age to marry in her home country of Turkey is now 17, the practice of marrying girls off is still rampant.
According to the Turkish Association of University Women, there are 181,000 child brides in Turkey, the Daily Beast reported. Worldwide, 13.5 million girls have been forced to marry before turning 18, according to a 2012 World Vision report.
When Kilic was 28, she hit her breaking point. Her parents had threatened to ostracize her if she got divorced, but it was a risk she was willing to take.
"It was like living in a prison," she told Firat News. "But one day I stood up to my family and said 'Either you accept my decision or you won't see me again.' When my family realized I was determined they understood."
It was a risk worth taking -- not just for her own sake. But for the sake of the girls for whom she is now advocating.
Last month, the 33-year-old became mayor of Kocakoy, a farming town of 17,000 people. She shares the role with her male running mate, as party rules state that all top positions be split between a man and a woman.
Her main goal is to empower women by encouraging them to seek out education and the rights to which they are entitled, she told the Daily Beast.
"There is a lot of hope here now," she told the news outlet. "Women have been attending my rallies in droves. They say: 'If Berivan can do it, so can I.'"
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