(NC) It was in England that February 14th first became associated with romantic cards being sent by an admirer. And by 1910, Hallmark Cards was founded leading to the mass production of valentines and the holiday as we know it. We now recognize Valentine’s Day as a time to celebrate love and marriage — but we must also remember there are those who have such things forced upon them.

In many sub-Saharan African countries, child-marriage is an all-too-common occurrence. Poverty and a lack of employment opportunities mean that girls are often sold to older men by their parents in exchange for money or livestock. Families use their daughters as commodity items in order to provide an income for the most basic needs.

Unicef reports that in 2016, 40 per cent of Ugandan females were married by the age of 18 and 10 per cent were wed by 15. Similarly high numbers are reported in Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

Fortunately, this practice can be stopped with education. A young woman with an education is better equipped with the skills needed to succeed in the job market, enabling her to support her family without a husband.

Enrollment for primary school education has gone up in recent years, but post-secondary education is still lacking. Women need degrees from colleges and universities more than ever to find safe and sustainable careers that allow them to choose when and whom to marry.

That is why Beautiful World Canada, a Toronto-based charity, focuses on providing college and university scholarships to women in Uganda, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. This helps women to graduate with a better chance of finding employment and to focus on bettering themselves and their community.

Find more information or become a sponsor at www.beautifulworldcanada.org.