Tag Archives: Girls Not Brides
The third International Day of the Girl is still almost four months away, but no need to wait until October 11 to celebrate our sisters.
The Day of the Girl Summit, which offers a host of online activities to engage girls around the world in the movement, has organized an 11 Months of Action campaign to generate excitement in the months leading up to the big day. Each month, supporters focus on a different issue, such as bullying, health or human rights.
This month, the Summit has partnered with Girls Not Brides to focus on child marriage, a global practice that affects one girl every 2 seconds—or about as long as it would take you to snap a selfie or tweet a message as part of this month’s campaign.
Here are two easy ways to participate while also urging U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to make ending child marriage a foreign policy priority:
1. Create a selfie with the message “@JohnKerry please work to #EndChildMarriage and #Lead4Girls!” and post the picture to your social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, you name it.
2. Tweet @JohnKerry with your own message urging him to #Lead4Girls and #EndChildMarriage for #IDG2014 or use one of the sample messages provided by the Summit and its partners.
Here are a few examples:
- All girls deserve a chance at a real future. @JohnKerry: It’s time to show the world the U.S. can #Lead4Girls & #EndChildMarriage! #IDG2014
- 14M girls r married every year b4 age 18. Girls like me deserve a life they choose. @JohnKerry #EndChildMarriage. #Lead4Girls #IDG2014
- @JohnKerry: Each girl is a universe of potential. Give us choices, opportunities & a chance at a real future. #EndChildMarriage #Lead4Girls
- @JohnKerry: Help #EndChildMarriage by 2030! Commit the U.S. to #Lead4Girls! #11MonthsofAction http://bit.ly/1k1kl4f
Visit DayOfTheGirlSummit.org to see more suggestions, tap into a host of resources for raising awareness and learn about other ways to get involved.
Alemtsahye Gebrekidan was 10 when she married in Ethiopia.
By the time she was 13, she was both a widow and a new mother. Her schooling cut short, she couldn’t read and she couldn’t write. How could she support her infant son? Still a child, how could she even care for herself?
“Education is very important! If you don’t write and read, it is like being blind,” Alem said during a recent radio broadcast at Voice of Russia UK, in which she shared the story of her childhood as well as the advocacy work she does as chair of the Former Child Wives Foundation.
“That is why I’m campaigning against child marriage and am helping former child wives whose lives have already been damaged,” she said. “Helping them to get education, to come out and speak . . . That is my campaign against child marriage.”
Alem, as she is called, joined four other human rights activists during the half-hour discussion, which ranged from the importance of enforcing—not just enacting—laws against child marriage as well as including men and boys in the efforts to curb the practice.
Panelists included Margaret Owen, director of Widows For Peace Through Democracy; Kerrie Thornhill, research associate at International Gender Studies, Oxford University; Shazia Choudhry, reader in law at Queen Mary University in London; and Ellen Travers, program officer at Girls Not Brides.
This podcast originally appeared on VoiceOfRussia.com/UK on May 14, 2014.
In June, leaders from around the globe will gather for the 26th session of the Human Rights Council to discuss the ills of child, early and forced marriage and to share suggestions for ending the practice.
No doubt, they’ll be armed with plenty of data that describe the scope of the problem: 39,000 young girls are forced into marriage each day. That’s roughly one child bride every 2 seconds. And at that rate, the UNFPA projects another 142 million more girls may be victimized by the practice by 2020.
The numbers are staggering, but the personal stories of the girls get to the heart of the matter. Girls like Tehani, who was 6 when her 25-year-old husband pressed his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams and then raped her.
Or Ghulam, whose dreams of becoming a teacher were dashed at the age of 11 when she was pulled from school to marry a 40-year-old man. Or Asia, who at 14 cared for her 2-year-old and a newborn, all while still ill and bleeding from childbirth.
For those girls, child marriage is much more than a statistical problem. It’s a miserable, life-threatening, heartbreaking reality—one that is on full display at the Too Young to Wed exhibit at the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland.
The traveling collection of photographs by VII photographer Stephanie Sinclair and videos by VII photographer Jessica Dimmock arrived at the UN’s Palais des Nations just in time for the 25th session of the Human Rights Council. They’ll remain on display until Friday, March 14, in an effort to raise the profile of child marriage in advance of the June session.
Though child marriage wasn’t on the agenda for the March meeting, scores of people packed into the gallery last week for a panel discussion on the topic that included Yemen’s Minister of Human Rights Hooria Mashhour, Italy’s Undersecretary of State Benedetto Della Vedova and Canada’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Lynne Yelich, among other dignitaries and human rights advocates. But one panelist in particular seemed to capture the hearts of those in the room: Enerstrida Mirriam Michelo.
Mirriam, as she is known, was 9 when her parents first started talking about marrying her off to an older widower—with three kids of his own—in her native Zambia. By the time she was 13, her parents had pulled her out of school and locked her away, so she could focus on learning the skills she’d need as a wife. When she resisted, she was beaten.
“Even though I was beaten, I never gave up because I knew that without education, my life [would] be something else,” said Mirriam, who managed to send a letter to one of her former teachers pleading for help.
Her teacher and brother approached the police and the YWCA, who freed Mirriam so she could continue her education. Still, there was a price. The shame associated with having refused a marriage meant that her family had to leave their village, she told the crowd in Geneva. And though she desperately wanted to study nursing, she lacked the money for school.
So she’d avoided child marriage, but her future remained uncertain. While the crowd sat silently, trying to absorb the full impact of Mirriam’s story, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin took the microphone and offered Mirriam a full scholarship to nursing school, courtesy of the UNFPA.
The crowd stood and applauded. Mirriam wept.
In three months, many of these same policymakers will gather for the next Human Rights Council session, where child marriage will be a central issue. We hope as they debate the best way to end the practice that they’ll remember Mirriam’s story: her anguish, her uncertainty and ultimately, her joy.
But we also hope they’ll remember the haunting images of Tehani, Ghulam and Asia, and the tragedy endured by millions of girls just like them around the globe, girls whose stories don’t have a happy ending—yet.
Too Young to Wed is extraordinarily grateful to the following partners who helped sponsor the exhibition in Geneva: VII Photo Agency, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the African Union, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Girls Not Brides, Plan International, the World YWCA and the governments of Canada, Ethiopia, Finland, Honduras, Italy, the Netherlands, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Uruguay and Yemen.
Tomorrow marks the second International Day of the Girl Child, an observance very dear to the Too Young to Wed team and lots of other amazing groups around the world working hard to make sure girls grow up safe and healthy, confident and educated.
The inaugural celebration last year coincided with a photo exhibit at the United Nations, a reception attended by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin among other luminaries, and the release of “Marrying Too Young: End Child Marriage.”
The 76-page report from the UNFPA outlined the negative global consequences of child marriage and warned that, without action, 142 million girls could be subject to the practice over the next decade.
“Let this be a call to action,” Ki-moon said at the time. “Let us end child marriage in this generation.”
We’re pleased to note that much progress has been made over the last year—including the recent adoption of the UN resolution on child, early and forced marriage by the UN Human Rights Council.
Still, we have a long way to go. The Too Young to Wed exhibit, including photographs by Stephanie Sinclair and video by Jessica Dimmock, just wrapped up a six-week visit to Montreal. We hope that as it continues to travel the globe, it raises awareness of the importance of protecting girls from harmful practices like child marriage—a shameful institution that limits the potential not only of the girls, but of entire communities.
If you’d like to join us in bringing attention to the issue, here are a few suggestions:
- Share this new video by Girls Not Brides, which in less than three minutes explains how child marriage perpetuates poverty, health crises, violence and lack of opportunity in communities around the world.
- Visit 11daysofaction.org, an effort by Girl Up that shares inspiring stories of girls from around the world and offers several ways to join the effort via social media.
- Check out Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., or simply tune in to http://wovexhibition.org/live-stream at 7:30 p.m. tonight to watch a panel of 11 award-winning photographers—including our own Stephanie Sinclair—discuss their ground-breaking work with journalist Ann Curry.
The exhibit itself is not exclusively focused on child marriage. The stunning images on display through March 9, which are also included in a book available in the museum’s store, cover a myriad of topics, from 21st century slavery to the chemistry of the teenage brain. But they’re a shining example of the power of photography, an art Too Young to Wed relies heavily on to share its message.
More importantly, they represent the tremendous impact women can have when given the freedom and the opportunity to pursue their passion—a human right we’d like to see granted to every girl on earth.
Sixty-six percent of girls in Bangladesh are married before they turn 18, an astonishingly high rate. A number of programs are aimed at curbing that trend. We’d like to call your attention to two that rely largely on the power of young people themselves to change their own destinies.
The first is a club sponsored by Plan Bangladesh. The club members—called Wedding Busters—literally jump into action when they learn that a child marriage is being planned. They go right to the parents of the bride, explaining that marriage before 18 is not only illegal but dangerous to their daughter’s health and disastrous for her education. They can appeal to adults within the community for additional help if need be, but often, their arguments are convincing on their own. We learned about the program through Girls Not Brides.
The second is an effort led by BRAC—Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee—an NGO that focuses on creating opportunities for the world’s poor. Its SoFEA program (Social and Financial Empowerment for Adolescents) sponsors clubs for girls between the ages of 11 and 21. Members meet about three times a week and learn life skills and financial literacy. In a sense, the program helps them understand their own self-worth so they can become their own strongest advocates. We learned of this program through the International Center for Research on Women.