Author Archives: Edie Gross Evans

21 Monday, September 2015

In Nepal, quake threatens family’s stance against child marriage

Some 90 percent of the homes in Kagati village collapsed following the April 2015 earthquake and violent aftershocks that rocked the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. A portion of the proceeds from Too Young to Wed’s first print sale, extended through September 22 due to high demand, will be used to help the village restore its school. --- Chakraman Shreshta Balami
Some 90 percent of the homes in Kagati village collapsed following the April 2015 earthquake and violent aftershocks that rocked the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. A portion of the proceeds from Too Young to Wed’s first print sale, extended through September 22 due to high demand, will be used to help the village restore its school.
— Chakraman Shreshta Balami

Like 90 percent of the houses in Kagati village in the Kathmandu Valley, the one belonging to Niruta and Durga collapsed during the April 25 earthquake.

But the young couple is fortunate.

They survived the quake and violent aftershocks that flattened villages like theirs, killed nearly 9,000 people and injured 23,000 in Nepal this spring. And while nearly a half-million people were displaced, Niruta and Durga have shelter: each night, they huddle with their three small children in what used to be their cow shed.

Niruta was 14 years old, nine months pregnant and about to be married when she was first photographed in January 2007 by Too Young to Wed founder Stephanie Sinclair. Durga was only 17.

Niruta was 14 the day she and Durga married in 2007. Now a mother of three, Niruta works on a small farm in the Kathmandu Valley with her husband. She wants her children to stay in school and avoid child marriage. --- Stephanie Sinclair
Niruta was 14 the day she and Durga married in 2007. Now a mother of three, Niruta works on a small farm in the Kathmandu Valley with her husband. She wants her children to stay in school and avoid child marriage.
— Stephanie Sinclair

During a visit with Sinclair last year, both parents insisted that their own children would get an education and avoid early marriage, but that was before Nepal’s worst natural disaster in more than 80 years left the village’s school unsafe and family budgets stretched thinner than ever. Nepal already has one of the world’s highest child marriage rates – 41 percent of girls and 11 percent of boys are married before their 18th birthday – and humanitarian organizations warn that number could climb as families struggle to recover from the earthquake.

A portion of the proceeds from Too Young to Wed’s first print sale, extended through September 22 due to high demand, will be used to help Niruta and Durga rebuild their home and Kagati village restore its school. Though the school has been deemed structurally unsafe, many of its 560 students continue to gather there, desperate for shelter and an education.

Among them are Niruta’s 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. Another daughter, born just before the quake, stays with Niruta and Durga during the day while they toil on the family’s farm.

“I am committed to sending my children to school,” Durga told Sinclair last year. “I want them to study as much as they can. Whatever I am doing, I am doing for them now. If they don’t study, they will become like us – or worse. We both work 12 to 13 hours a day, with just a two-hour rest, and then take care of our family. We have no days off.”

Niruta, left, and husband Durga, right, work a small farm to support their three children. Their home crumbled in the earthquake, and now the family of five takes shelter in a cow shed. --- Stephanie Sinclair
Niruta, left, and husband Durga, right, work a small farm to support their three children. Their home crumbled in the earthquake, and now the family of five takes shelter in a cow shed.
— Stephanie Sinclair

In Kagati village, the average age of marriage for girls had steadily risen from 12 to 15 in recent years. But the condition of the school and the economic hardships imposed by the quake threaten to reverse that progress.

Reestablishing the school as a safe haven is particularly important when it comes to reducing child marriage. According to CREHPA, a Nepalese group that campaigns against child marriage, girls who can’t attend school are considered more vulnerable to rape or trafficking. As a result, their parents may feel pressure to marry them off as a means of keeping them safe. Unfortunately, their early marriages often expose them to greater dangers, including complications from pregnancy, the leading cause of death among 15-to-19-year-old girls in developing countries.

The school in Kagati village has been deemed structurally unsafe since the earthquake, but children, desperate for shelter and an education, continue to use it. Proceeds from Too Young to Wed's print sale will help the village rebuild the school. --- Stephanie Sinclair
The school in Kagati village has been deemed structurally unsafe since the earthquake, but children, desperate for shelter and an education, continue to use it. A portion of the proceeds from Too Young to Wed’s print sale will help the village rebuild the school.
— Stephanie Sinclair

Chakraman Shreshta Balami, a teacher at the village school, told Sinclair that he and other local teachers established a club aimed at educating parents and children about the dangers of early marriage and the importance of school. Progress has been slow, he said, but more families are pushing their children into the classroom and keeping their daughters in school longer. And the children are empowered to speak for themselves, he said.

“We pressured families to allow the children to continue their studies, even interrupting wedding preparations at times,” said Balami, who himself was a young groom. “Now our approach has changed, and we have educated the children to say no to their marriages.”

Durga was 17 and Niruta was 14 when the two married in Kagati village in 2007. They have three children now and, like many in their village, are struggling months after an earthquake leveled their home. --- Stephanie Sinclair
Durga was 17 and Niruta was 14 when the two married in Kagati village in 2007. They have three children now and, like many in their village, are struggling months after an earthquake leveled their home.
— Stephanie Sinclair

Niruta, now 22, said she wants all her children, daughters included, to marry as adults—and only after they’ve finished their educations.

“If they want to study, I will let them study as much as they want,” she said. “I would like them to wait until they are 25 or 30 to get married, because if you get married [young], you will become useless like me.”

WAYS TO HELP

Purchase a print during this limited time: Visit tooyoungtowed.org/printsale to support our programming

Share information about Too Young to Wed and the print sale on social media and follow us there:

Twitter: @2young2wed
Instagram: @tooyoungtowed
Facebook: facebook.com/tooyoungtowed
Hashtags: #endchildmarriage #tooyoungtowed

Volunteer: Share your skills and collaborate with TYTW. For opportunities email info@tooyoungtowed.org

Too Young To Wed is a nonprofit organization qualified for tax-exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Each contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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18 Friday, September 2015

Child marriage survivor pens poignant letter

Uzma, 4, learns how to write the alphabet at a school in Meerwala, Pakistan. Child brides often lose their opportunity for an education, but Too Young to Wed supports initiatives to end child marriage and keep girls in school. --- Stephanie Sinclair
Uzma, 4, learns how to write the alphabet at a school in Meerwala, Pakistan. Child brides often lose their opportunity for an education, but Too Young to Wed supports initiatives to end child marriage and keep girls in school. This image is one of three included in the nonprofit’s first print sale, which runs through Sept. 20. All proceeds support programs aimed at ending child marriage and assisting child brides.
— Stephanie Sinclair

By Gabriella Gillespie, child marriage survivor and member of Too Young to Wed’s Board of Advisers

When I first came across Stephanie Sinclair’s pictures a few years ago, my heart slowed down for a moment; it was as though I was reliving old memories, memories I didn’t want to remember.

Now I can look at Steph’s photos and see both the beauty and pain she captures in her pictures.  I see the beauty within certain traditions and cultures of marriage, but mostly, I see the pain and harm that comes from the barbaric practice that is child/forced marriage.

Stephanie’s work not only shows us how so many different countries around the world still practice child/forced marriage today, but also the horrendous consequences facing those of us who have lived through it, or are still living through it at this very moment in time. Without the help of nonprofits like Too Young to Wed, more and more girls will be left to grow up in a lifetime of abuse. Child marriage is one of the worse Human Rights Violations facing young girls in the world today.

I know only too well about child marriage and the scars it leaves behind. In 1977, my sisters and I were taken from our home in the UK to Yemen by our father. Once there, we were all sold as child brides. I was barely 13 years old.  Soon after my marriage, I became a Mother.

Child brides go through so much abuse; they are tortured on a daily basis. I use the word torture because that’s how I felt when I woke up every morning knowing that the day ahead would be full of abuse.

I lost one of my sisters to suicide in Yemen. Her name was Izzy, and the thought of living a lifetime of abuse became too much for her when my father sold her to a 60-year-old man. She committed suicide on her wedding day.

I witnessed very little girls become child brides and mothers. Almost every girl in the rural village where I lived was married around the same age as I was, even younger.  It was difficult to know their ages because they had no birth certificates, so no one knew how old they were.

There were almost no schools in the villages for them to learn, and the few schools that existed only allowed boys to attend. How are girls able to learn and thrive in life if they are not allowed to attend school?

Growing up, the village’s girls didn’t know about reproductive health. They had absolutely no clue what a period was or what was happening to their bodies. Their first night as a child bride is the most terrifying experience of their lives because they have no clue what will happen to them; they know nothing about sex or what happens between men and women.  Almost every girl is raped on her first night of marriage, and this continues throughout the marriage.

I was lucky. I managed to escape with my five children thanks to the help of the British Embassy in 1992. There were no organizations around to help us in Yemen back when we were child brides, but I know I’m forever grateful to those who helped me escape Yemen and my marriage. If I hadn’t escaped, I have no doubt I would be dead right now!

 British-born Gabriella Gillespie, far left, was 13 when her father took her and her sisters from their home in Wales to his native Yemen for what he called a "vacation." One by one, he sold his daughters into marriage. Gillespie endured 17 years of abuse and heartache, fleeing back to England with her five children only after her husband announced plans to marry off their oldest daughter, who was still a child.
British-born Gabriella Gillespie, far left, was 13 when her father took her and her sisters from their home in Wales to his native Yemen for what he called a “vacation.” One by one, he sold his daughters into marriage. Gillespie endured 17 years of abuse and heartache, fleeing back to England with her five children only after her husband announced plans to marry off their oldest daughter, who was still a child.

Some may think that because I was a child bride 20-odd years ago, things have improved and this practice no longer exists, but all we need to do is look at Stephanie’s photos to know otherwise.

My heart breaks every time I see another picture of a child bride, read another story or see the statistics on child/forced marriage. However, I also have tremendous hope when I see people like Stephanie who go far and beyond to help those who cannot help themselves.

Not everyone can go out in the field and campaign or give their time to fight this cause, even if they really wanted to, but there are other ways you can help.

Stephanie is having a print sale of her invaluable photos. If you are able to buy one, the money will go to a good cause: helping child brides. I can tell you on their behalf that they will be forever grateful.

Gabriella Gillespie

Gabriella Gillespie is a member of Too Young to Wed's Board of Advisers and the author of "A Father's Betrayal," a memoir about her experiences as a child bride.
Gabriella Gillespie is a member of Too Young to Wed’s Board of Advisers and the author of “A Father’s Betrayal,” a memoir about her experiences as a child bride.

WAYS TO HELP

Purchase a print during this limited time: Visit tooyoungtowed.org/printsale to support our programming

Share information about Too Young to Wed and the print sale on social media and follow us there:
Twitter: @2young2wed
Instagram: @tooyoungtowed
Facebook: facebook.com/tooyoungtowed
Hashtags: #endchildmarriage #tooyoungtowed

Volunteer: Share your skills and collaborate with TYTW. For opportunities email info@tooyoungtowed.org

Too Young To Wed is a nonprofit organization qualified for tax-exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Each contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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16 Wednesday, September 2015

Print sale proceeds support safe house in Kenya

Eunice, 13, helps braid the hair of another resident at Samburu Girls Foundation, a safe haven for victims of female genital mutilation and child marriage. --- Newsha Tavakolian
Eunice, 13, helps braid the hair of another resident at Samburu Girls Foundation, a safe haven for victims of female genital mutilation and child marriage.
— Newsha Tavakolian

Eunice was 11 when she decided she’d had enough.

Only two weeks earlier, her father had circumcised her and forced her to marry an abusive 78-year-old man. Nursing fresh bruises from the beating she’d earned for refusing to “please” him the night before, Eunice decided to run.

With help from an uncle, Eunice found safety at the Samburu Girls Foundation in northern Kenya, which rescues girls already circumcised or prone to such mutilation. To date, the organization has rescued 200 girls like Eunice and placed 125 of them in boarding schools.

Through its membership in The Girl Generation, Too Young to Wed supports initiatives like the Samburu Girls Foundation, which keeps about 30 girls, ages 7 to 16, together in a safe house and uses donations to help the girls return to school. All the proceeds from Too Young to Wed’s inaugural print sale, which runs through Sept. 20, 2015, will be used to help Samburu Girls Foundation and several additional groups that are committed to helping child brides and victims of female genital mutilation and other harmful, traditional practices.

Prints can be ordered for $100 at tooyoungtowed.org/printsale. Each 8×10 archival print was hand-printed and signed by TYTW founder Stephanie Sinclair, whose award-winning work documenting child marriage has been exhibited around the world.

A young girl twirls in a carefree moment during laundry day at the Samburu Girls Foundation safe house in northern Kenya. Proceeds from Too Young to Wed's first print sale will benefit, which runs until Sept. 20, will benefit the foundation. --- Newsha Tavakolian
A young girl twirls in a carefree moment during laundry day at the Samburu Girls Foundation safe house in northern Kenya. Proceeds from Too Young to Wed’s first print sale, which runs until Sept. 20, will benefit the foundation.
— Newsha Tavakolian

The Samburu Girls Foundation was founded by Josephine Kulea, who considers herself one of the lucky ones. When she was about 9, her classmates began to disappear. One by one, they were circumcised and then married off to men 30 to 40 years older. Though Kulea was circumcised—like 90 percent of the girls in Samburu County—her mother resisted the family’s attempts to marry her off young, and she was able to finish her education.

She provides the same opportunity for the girls she rescues, all of whom have endured FGM and forced marriages—and in some cases crude abortions. Some are brought to the safe house by police officers or sympathetic family members. Others find their way to Kulea’s door on their own, with nothing more than the clothes on their back.

Eunice, who has continued her education, says one day she will work to put an end to FGM and child marriage.

“When I become a powerful woman in [the] future, I will ensure that young girls . . . would go to school,” she said, “and spread the gospel of stopping early marriages and female genital mutilation in Samburu.”

A longer version of this piece by Iranian photojournalist Newsha Tavakolian originally appeared on The Girl Generation’s website and was reprinted with their permission.

WAYS TO HELP

Purchase a print during this limited time: Visit tooyoungtowed.org/printsale to support our programming

Share information about Too Young to Wed and the print sale on social media and follow us there:
Twitter: @2young2wed
Instagram: @tooyoungtowed
Facebook: facebook.com/tooyoungtowed
Hashtags: #endchildmarriage #tooyoungtowed

Volunteer: Share your skills and collaborate with TYTW. For opportunities email info@tooyoungtowed.org

Too Young To Wed is a nonprofit organization qualified for tax-exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Each contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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13 Sunday, September 2015

TYTW’s inaugural print sale to benefit child brides

A woman tends to grain during the rainy season near Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Not far from here is the village of Gombat, where Stephanie Sinclair first photographed Destaye, married at age 11. Proceeds from Too Young to Wed's inaugural print sale will support an initiative there to empower adolescent girls as well as other programs aimed at preventing child marriage and helping child brides. --- Stephanie Sinclair
A woman tends to grain during the rainy season near Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Not far from here is the village of Gombat, where Stephanie Sinclair first photographed Destaye, married at age 11. Proceeds from Too Young to Wed’s inaugural print sale will support an initiative there to empower adolescent girls as well as other programs aimed at preventing child marriage and helping child brides.
— Stephanie Sinclair

In collaboration with Photoville, New York City’s largest annual photo festival, Too Young to Wed (TYTW) will host its first print sale, featuring images by our Founder and Executive Director Stephanie Sinclair.

Each 8×10 archival print was hand-printed and signed by Ms. Sinclair, whose award-winning work documenting child marriage has been exhibited around the world. Ms. Sinclair’s work will be featured at Photoville at Brooklyn Bridge Park, and like the premiere photo event, which attracted 71,000 visitors last year, the print sale will run from Sept. 10 – 20, 2015.

Prints can be ordered for $100 at tooyoungtowed.org/printsale, and 100 percent of the contributions received from photo sales will directly support TYTW’s mission to protect girls’ rights and end child marriage. Too Young to Wed supports local organizations and persons making a difference in the lives of girls and boys who are affected by the harmful practice of child marriage such as:

The Samburu Girls Foundation, a grassroots organization in rural Kenya, which provides shelter and education to girls rescued from child marriage, female genital mutilation and other harmful practices. To date, the organization has rescued more than 200 girls and placed 125 of them in boarding school.

The women and children of the Kagati Village in Nepal where Ms. Sinclair conducted much of her child marriage reporting in 2007 and an area that was destroyed in the recent earthquakes. Child bride Niruta, photographed at age 13 by Ms. Sinclair, lives here with her three children.

Girl Empowerment Groups – an adolescent girls empowerment initiative designed by the Population Council for vulnerable girls living in rural areas. In this capacity, Too Young To Wed will support the village of Gombat, just outside of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, where Ms. Sinclair first photographed Destaye, who was married at 11 to an Ethiopian Orthodox priest.

Young girls sit inside a home outside of Al Hudaydah, Yemen. Proceeds from images like this one will benefit programs designed to prevent child marriage and aid child brides. --- Stephanie Sinclair
Young girls sit inside a home outside of Al Hudaydah, Yemen. Proceeds from images like this one will benefit programs designed to prevent child marriage and aid child brides.
— Stephanie Sinclair

Photoville Presentations and Talks:

Sept 17: TYTW will engage students during Photoville’s Education Day, a one-day field trip to the photo village that’s free and open to NYC public schools. Hundreds of middle school and high school students participate in a day of photography and storytelling activities, and they’ll have an opportunity to see how photography can bring about social change.

Sept. 19: Stephanie Sinclair discusses her Too Young to Wed photographs during the event An Evening with National Geographic, from 7-10pm at the Photoville Beer Garden. The evening will begin with photos and videos from the past 127 years—including the most recent stories from National Geographic and their digital platforms. Other photographers included are Katie Orlinsky, Robert Clark and David Guttenfelder with Director of Photography Sarah Leen serving as Master of Ceremonies.

TYTW’s Mission: Every two seconds, a girl is forced into marriage against her will. The younger she is, the more likely a child bride is to experience domestic violence, contract HIV, develop complications from pregnancies or even die during childbirth. Child marriage robs girls of the childhood and the education they deserve, silencing them and preventing them from achieving their fullest potential.

Uzma, 4, learns how to write the alphabet at a school in Meerwala, Pakistan. Child brides often lose their opportunity for an education, but Too Young to Wed supports initiatives to end child marriage and keep girls in school. --- Stephanie Sinclair
Uzma, 4, learns how to write the alphabet at a school in Meerwala, Pakistan. Child brides often lose their opportunity for an education, but Too Young to Wed supports initiatives to end child marriage and keep girls in school.
— Stephanie Sinclair

Too Young to Wed’s mission is to protect girls’ rights and end child marriage. We do this by providing visual evidence of the human rights challenges faced by women and girls. Through our storytelling, we generate attention and resources to amplify the voices of these courageous women and girls and inspire the global community to end child marriage. We transform influential advocacy into tangible action on the ground through partnerships with international and local NGOs and by supporting initiatives in the communities where the girls in our stories live.

WAYS TO HELP

Purchase a print during this limited time: Visit tooyoungtowed.org/printsale to support our programming

Share information about Too Young to Wed and the print sale on social media and follow us there:
Twitter: @2young2wed
Instagram: @tooyoungtowed
Facebook: facebook.com/tooyoungtowed
Hashtags: #endchildmarriage #tooyoungtowed

Volunteer: Share your skills and collaborate with TYTW. For opportunities email info@tooyoungtowed.org

Too Young To Wed is a nonprofit organization qualified for tax-exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Each contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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13 Wednesday, May 2015

Strike a #strengthie pose

Some of Africa's most influential recording artists rock their #strengthies in solidarity with the Poverty is Sexist campaign. They include, from left, Victoria Kimani, Vanessa Mdee, Selmor Mtukudzi, Omotola, Arielle T, Waje, Gabriela and Judith Sephuma. ---Courtesy of ONE
Some of Africa’s most influential recording artists rock their #strengthies in solidarity with the Poverty is Sexist campaign. They include, from left, Victoria Kimani, Vanessa Mdee, Selmor Mtukudzi, Omotola, Arielle T, Waje, Gabriela and Judith Sephuma.
—Courtesy of ONE

Residents of the world’s poorest countries struggle daily for access to essential services: clean water, safe shelter, education, healthcare.

But that struggle is magnified for women and girls, who often lack the political clout, social standing, economic independence and even the most basic literacy skills of their male counterparts.

In short, poverty is sexist. That’s also the name of the campaign launched on International Women’s Day this year by ONE, a global advocacy organization pushing for an end to extreme poverty and preventable disease.

The Poverty is Sexist campaign, which highlights poverty’s disproportionate burden on women and urges world leaders to address that inequality, is inviting everyone with a social media account to stand #WithStrongGirls today, May 13, by posting a #strengthie—a photo of themselves striking the “Rosie the Riveter” strength pose from the iconic World War II-era poster.

Too Young to Wed founder Stephanie Sinclair brandishes her #strengthie to stand #WithStrongGirls today.
Too Young to Wed founder Stephanie Sinclair brandishes her #strengthie to stand #WithStrongGirls today.

Blanketing Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media accounts with the images is just the beginning. Campaign organizers plan to print them on billboards, post them at bus stops and even project them onto the buildings where world leaders meet, as a constant reminder that the world is watching—and urging them to adopt policies that empower women.

The campaign has also teamed up with some of Africa’s most influential performing artists to write and record a song, released today, expected to serve as a “rally cry” for the movement.

So clench your fist, raise your forearm and smile at the camera—and urge your friends to do the same, using the hashtags #WithStrongGirls, #Strengthie and #PovertyIsSexist.

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