facts about child marriage in Africa
Child marriages have been occurring for thousands of years. While child marriage is more commonly seen between female children and much older men, child marriage is defined as marriages where either one or both partners are younger than the age of 18. According to UNICEF, Africa has the highest rate of child marriages in the world. Specifically, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates where every four in 10 girls are married before the age of 18. Within this region, the country of Niger has the highest child marriage rates, with 77% of girls married before the age of 18. Here are seven facts about child marriage in Africa.

7 Facts About Child Marriage in Africa

  1. Children marry as young as 7 and 8 years old. The U.N. estimates that every day around 37,000 girls under the age of 18 are married. Of the girls forced into marriage, one in three girls experience child marriage before the age of 18 and one in nine experience it before the age of 15. UNICEF estimates that if no change occurs, the rate of child marriages in Africa alone may double by 2050.
  2. Girls often experience suppressed education. Most girls who are in a child marriage do not get an education higher than the mandated primary education of grades one through nine. This is due to social stereotypes that categorize girls as domestic wives who stay in the home to cook, clean and bear children. Another reason is that most child marriages take place in poverty-stricken areas and they cannot afford to pay for an education or do not have access to education near them.
  3. Children involved in child marriages are at greater risk of domestic violence. A high percentage of girls in a child marriage experience domestic and sometimes sexual violence. According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), girls who marry before the age of 18 are twice as likely to experience domestic violence when compared to girls who marry after the age of 18. Many girls cannot escape this violence because of poverty and the lack of education.
  4. Having a daughter is seen as a burden in Africa. Most child marriages take place in poverty-stricken areas where families consider daughters to be economic and financial burdens. Many families, wanting to make up for the money they put into raising a daughter, require a dowry for their daughter’s marriage. The high cost of a dowry means that most men will work for years to save up for a wife. As a result, most child marriages are between a young girl and a much older man.
  5. Child brides have a greater risk of contracting HIV and other STDs. Since men are typically much older when they marry a child bride, they tend to have had multiple partners before they are married. As a result, girls involved in child marriages are more susceptible to contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, research found that many young people lack the proper knowledge of HIV and other STDs and safe sexual education. Sex education is a mandatory curriculum in Africa, but religious and cultural taboos prevent schools from properly teaching this curriculum. In 2015, the Department of Basic Education began developing lesson plans for grades seven through nine that properly educate children about safe sex and STDs.
  6. Many child brides face high-risk pregnancies. Since girls marry at such young ages, many girls have high-risk pregnancies due to their underdeveloped bodies. As a result, they often have a difficult childbirth. Additionally, pregnancy lessens the body’s immune system, leaving young girls easily susceptible to illnesses such as malaria. Malaria is harder to treat when one is HIV positive and can lead to death in young pregnant girls.
  7. Ultimately, child marriage violates human rights. Child marriages involving boys is significantly more rare than those involving girls. The primary difference in a marriage involving young boys is they do not pose the same health risks as girls. However, child marriages between both sexes take away a child’s basic human rights. In 1948, in an attempt to discourage child marriages, the U.N. declared child marriage an act against human rights, as stated in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These seven facts about child marriage in Africa explain the difficulties young girls face every day. While child marriages around the world have been in a steady decline, Africa has been the slowest progressing area. According to the U.N., child marriages in Africa could actually continue to grow rather than decline. A continued growing awareness around the world helps to end child marriages. A group of girls in Africa started a petition to change the laws and raise the age of consent. So far, the petition has received over 245,000 signatures. Efforts like these continue to help bring an end to child marriages in Africa.

– Chelsea Wolfe 
Photo: Flickr

child marriage in ZambiaIn Zambia, about two in every five girls are forced into marriage. Currently, the country is renewing its efforts to eradicate child marriage. In 2017, the President of Zambia along with presidents from Uganda and Malawi held an event where they declared they would prioritize ending child marriages by 2030. The President of Zambia stated, “Girls who marry young are often denied their rights. Ending child marriage by 2030 will require a range of actions, including making sure girls have access to quality education, legal reforms and changing traditional harmful practices.”

Already, rates of child marriage in Zambia have drastically decreased. Zambia’s Demographic and Health Surveys in 2002 found that the child marriage rate was 42%. In 2014, however, the child marriage rate had dropped down to 31%. Despite these numbers, Zambia still has a lot of work to do to save these young girls.

Common Reasons for Child Marriage

There are many factors contributing to child marriage. Here are three of the more common reasons for child marriage in Zambia.

  1. Poverty: Some families see child marriage as a way to reduce the financial burden of having young girls. Often, families in poverty will marry off their young daughter(s) to receive a payment of dowry. This dowry gives them great financial relief. In addition, they are saving money because they no longer have to provide for their daughter(s).
  2. Vulnerability: While all children are susceptible to being vulnerable to child marriage, orphans and stepchildren are even more vulnerable, specifically once they hit puberty. Some families feel that their job of taking care of them is done at that time, so they marry them off young. Stepchildren and orphans are also more widely mistreated than biological children. They may feel getting married is an escape from an otherwise unbearable situation.
  3. Protecting a Girl’s Sexuality: Parents may believe that if they marry their girls off young, they can protect them from engaging in “inappropriate behaviors,” like having multiple sexual partners. This way the girl only has sexual intercourse with her husband, and her family’s honor remains preserved. Some also consider child marriage as a protection for the girl against HIV or unwanted pregnancy.

The After-Effects

  • Increases Poverty: Child brides tend to drop out of school. As a result, any opportunities they may have had at getting a good job and helping their families out of poverty disappear.
  • Health Risks: Child brides are more likely to suffer from depression or PTSD due to abuse from their spouses or the fast-paced way they are forced to grow up. Also, child marriage in Zambia is often correlated with pregnancy, which can lead to higher death rates for the mother or child because the mother is not developmentally mature enough to carry a baby.
  • Risk of Violence: Child brides are more likely to deal with domestic violence including physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

The Good News

Despite these practices still occurring, the citizens and government of Zambia have begun taking steps to eradicate child marriages by 2030. Plan International is a humanitarian organization that works to advance children’s equality and rights. The organization’s Regional Director for both Eastern and Southern Africa, Roland Angerer, says change begins with education. He states, “It is essential that we promote education and encourage dialogue if we want to change social norms . . . Governments must ensure schools are accessible, inclusive and safe […] to enable more girls to attend and stay on in school.” This education helps not only young girls but also their families.

Senior Headman, Davison Shafuluma, in the Mumbwa district, holds meetings where he teaches parents and other family members that child marriage hurts more than it helps. He shares with them the effects a young girl can suffer through by marrying and carrying a child at too young an age. He also explains that they, as a family, can say ‘no’ to anyone who propositions marriage.

Beyond education, the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme on Ending Child Marriage helped establish 550 Safe Spaces in Zambia. In these Safe Spaces, young girls learn that they are equal to their male counterparts. The young girls learn that school, homework and their futures should be their focus and priority.

International Work to Eradicate Child Marriage

Aside from better education, “Zambia also co-sponsored, along with Canada, the first U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on child, early and forced marriage in 2013.” In 2014, eight Ministers from Zambia also committed to addressing child marriage and continuing the conversation. The country has also legislated a minimum age requirement for marriage beginning at the age of 18.

Although many more improvements are still necessary, Zambia is making much progress to diminish child marriage. The conversations in Zambia and across the world are finally giving these young, vulnerable girls a voice.

Stacey Krzych 
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in Russia
The minimum marriageable age in Russia is 18 years old. However, in some regions, it is common practice for teens to marry before the age of 18. Some may even marry as young as 14 years of age. For instance, in Moscow, the legal marriageable age is 16 and in Bashkortostan, it is 14, with underage marriages in Chechnya as well. In recent years, the idea of child marriage in Russia has sparked legal and social disputes between various communities.

In 2015, Putin lowered the legal age of marriage to 14 in Bashkortostan. This dropped the age of consent for special circumstances like teen pregnancy. However, the number of marriages is reportedly rising as teen pregnancies are increasing. Moreover, the public has agreed to the lowering of the age of consent. This brings up the issue that lowering the age exploits children. The problem extends in regions across Russia that are predominately traditionalists in their views and do not have close monitoring like in the northern and southern Caucasus regions.

Child Marriage in Chechnya

In Chechnya, reports indicated that an underage teen unlawfully married a man that was three times her age and already had multiple wives. The bride was 17 years old while the man was either in his late 40s or early 50s. The leader of the Chechen Republic attended the marriage even though Russian law does not permit polygamous marriages and child marriages. This highlights the pervading difficulties in enforcing laws across different regions.

Bride kidnappings have increased since the fall of the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union fell, Russia monitored other forms of social control, such as law enforcement, less. In addition, under Chechen rule, there has been a decrease in woman’s rights. Some even view bridal kidnappings as a tradition in Chechnya. The day of the wedding is often the last day brides see their families.

Many Caucasus states have reverted back to traditional social roles; women stay at home, especially in small towns and villages. In these small villages, people have accepted child marriage for hundreds of years. Some communities believe that their religion mandates it.

In Chechnya, there is no protection against forced marriage for young women, despite its illegality. The lack of control across the region explicitly inhibits the rights of women. Since the Chechnyan government runs locally, authorities’ biases influence women’s rights and child marriage. Enforcing laws in the North Caucasus region is difficult for Russia because of a lack of both executability and accountability.

Reports on Child Marriage in the South Caucasus Region

According to a UNICEF estimation, 7 percent of Armenian girls entered into marriage by 18 years of age in 2014. Unfortunately, this number may be much higher, since many underage marriages do not undergo registration. Women have little access to higher education. Moreover, people treat them unequally so others make decisions for them without their consent. Poverty and the familial need to ensure social status makes child marriage especially prevalent in small villages since marriage (and having children) can raise a girl’s standing and relieve financial burdens on her family. In Yezidi communities, children rarely seek out help for fear of suffering exclusion from their families. Soviet exceptionalism is a problem in this region, where Yezidis do not have to abide by Russian laws concerning the minimum age of consent.

In Azerbaijan, 2 percent of girls entered marriage by age 15 and 11 percent by 18, yet some believe that these statistics are underestimated. Bridal kidnappings are even more common. There is a direct link between bridal kidnappings and child marriages since early marriage is a threat to bridal abduction. Most families are more willing to marry their child off young than to have someone eventually abduct their daughter.

Russia’s Steps Forward

Despite the ongoing issues, Russia has taken multiple steps towards ending child marriage. According to girlsnotbrides.org, Russia has aimed to end forced child marriage by 2030. The Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination on Women, adopted in 1979, is an international bill consisting of 30 articles that define what constitutes discrimination against women. CEDAW has also taken charge of the issue by spreading awareness, for instance during Russia’s review in 2015. The bill ensures equal opportunities and equal access to public life including education, health and employment. In 1990, the minimum age of consent was age 18. In addition, the CEDAW Committee states that partners must have full consent for marriage.

UNICEF is leading the way towards support for women in the Caucasus regions. The organization offers youth grants supporting education for women, hotlines and supportive services to girls, strengthens legal protections and promotes awareness. Along with the government’s initiatives to stop child marriage, Russia is taking the initiative to guide communities across all regions, providing solutions toward a brighter future for girls.

Joelle Shusterman
Photo: Flickr

Indonesia Ends Child Marriage
In child marriages, underage brides usually must quit school to settle down with their adult husbands. According to many international human rights treaties, the minimum recommended age of marriage is 18. In Indonesia, 50,000 girls are married by the age of 15. In September 2019, Indonesia made an important step to end child marriage by raising the minimum age requirement of brides. If Indonesia ends child marriage, maybe other countries will follow suit.

The Problem

In Indonesia, the general consensus is that if a girl has any association with a boy to whom she is not related, they marry as soon as possible. The assumption is that any heterosexual relationship can and will lead to sex and pregnancy. Girls are often pressured into marriage at a young age.

Every year, 340,000 Indonesian girls will get married before they turn 18. Once they settle down, 85 percent of married or pregnant girls drop out of school. This is often due to schools discouraging married or pregnant girls from attending. Furthermore, 16-year-old girls are often too young to become responsible mothers. However, birth control in Indonesia costs $3 a month, which is more than many women and girls can afford.

The New Movement and Its Implications

Indonesia’s 1974 Marriage Law permits girls as young as age 16 to get married. However, under Indonesia’s 2002 child protection law, anyone under the age of 18 is considered a child.  These competing laws create a situation where girls still marry young despite legally being children.

On September 17, 2019, Indonesia announced that it was raising the minimum age requirement of brides in order to end child marriage. Now, women have to be 19 before they can get married. It is expected that this new motion will open young women up to new opportunities that were previously only available to young men. The country hopes to see full, legal implementation of this change within the next three years.
However, this new motion may not curb child marriages completely. Families can appeal to religious courts to have their children unofficially married off before they reach the legal age. As a result, around 1 percent of Indonesian girls are still getting married before the age of 15.

The Future for Indonesia

Child marriage remains a problem in Indonesia even as the world enters a new decade. Girls feel pressured to marry young and may not wait until the legal age to do so. Therefore, the country still needs to work to change the attitudes of its citizens. However, if Indonesia ends child marriage by raising the minimum age required to marry, maybe it will help encourage these girls to stay in school.

Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Child Marriage in Nepal Despite becoming illegal in 1963, child marriage remains a common practice in Nepal. Almost 40 percent of girls in Nepal will be wed before the age of 18, and 10 percent of girls will be married before the age of 15. These statistics place Nepal with the 17th highest prevalence rate of child marriage worldwide. As of 2017, there were 587,000 child brides in the country. The vast majority of these marriages are arranged, sometimes with significant age differences. Furthermore, the brides in child marriages are more likely to experience domestic violence and rape.

Activists claim that prevalence rates are increasing in some districts of the country. This is occurring despite the government announcing in 2014 a target to eradicate child marriage by 2030. However, there are a plethora of organizations working to combat child marriage in Nepal. Many of these organizations are working in tandem with the government to ensure that the 2030 goal is achieved. Keep reading to learn more about the top five organizations fighting child marriage in Nepal.

5 Organizations Fighting Child Marriage in Nepal

  1. UNICEF: The humanitarian branch of the United Nations has been instrumental in both raising awareness and tackling the problem of child marriage in Nepal. In 2016, UNICEF launched the Global Program to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, focusing on Nepal and 11 other countries. This program manifests through training community religious leaders to advise against child marriage. In addition, efforts include building health posts that protect child brides by teaching them about reproductive health, as well as mobilizing adolescent girls.

  1. Girls Not Brides: Girls Not Brides and UNICEF worked in tandem to craft Nepal’s National Strategy to End Child Marriage in 2016. The plan includes six components: implementing laws and policies, empowering girls, providing quality education for girls, engaging men, mobilizing families and communities to change norms and providing services. One tangible action taken thus far includes raising the legal marriage age to 20. Another action includes providing cash incentives for families to support their daughters’ educations. Girls Not Brides also works closely with a variety of grassroots organizations that address the issue on the ground including Sakcham Rural Nepal, Loo Niva Child Concern Group and Janaki Women Awareness Society.

  2. Kapilvastu Integrated Development Services (KIDS): A partner organization of Girls Not Brides, KIDS works in Kapilvastu, a district in Nepal, to improve women’s health services. Some of its projects include Safe Motherhood through WASH. WASH targets recent mothers, including child brides, to promote hygiene mothering practices such as hospital deliveries. Another project is the Women’s Health Program, which informs poor adolescent girls about their reproductive health to protect young brides.

  3. Loo Niva Child Concern Group: Another Nepali organization, Loo Niva specializes in children’s rights. The organization protects vulnerable children from exploitative practices, such as arranged child marriages. In particular, the organization has worked in the southern Lalitpur rural area. There, the organization promotes intervention education programs about the dangers of child marriage and how it contributes to issues such as school dropouts.

  4. Human Rights Watch: Although not involved in grassroots and community efforts, Human Rights Watch plays an instrumental role. The organization’s efforts hold the Nepali government accountable for its goal to end child marriage. Additionally, it has consistently surveyed the Nepali government’s actions and reported when, for example, the Nepali government delayed releasing in its strategic plan in 2016. This exposure is necessary to pressure the Nepali government to achieve its target.

Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr

Sonita Alizadeh’s Feminist Advocacy
Sonita Alizadeh is a 22-year-old rapper from Herat, Afghanistan. She became an advocate for humanitarian issues such as child marriage in 2014 after winning $1,000 in a U.S. music competition where she wrote a song encouraging Afgan people to vote. Sonita’s music video “Brides for Sale” also premiered in 2014 on YouTube, kickstarting her career and garnering over one million views as of 2019. This article will focus on Afghanistan’s policies on child marriage, Sonita’s history and how Sonita’s advocacy is making an impact. All of these aspects highlight the importance of Sonita Alizadeh’s feminist advocacy.

Afganistan and Child Marriage

In 1997, the Republic of Afghanistan permitted girls under the age of 16 to marry with the consent of their father or a judge under a civil code. In 1994, the Afghanistan government set the minimum age of marriage to 18, and in 2009 passed the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law; yet people often do not implement protections. The advocacy organization against child marriage, Girls Not Brides, cites UNICEF’s statistics for child marriage in Afganistan as of 2017: 9 percent of girls marry by 15 and 35 percent marry by 18.

Child marriages that still happen in Afghanistan often occur for several reasons including a lack of female education, displacement, dispute settlements for rival families and traditional family values and practices.

Afghanistan has made progress such as making ending child marriage a sustainable development (SDG) goal by 2030. Afghan women, such as Sonita Alizadeh, are speaking out when the government is not helping them effectively. That is why Sonita Alizadeh’s feminist advocacy is vital; it gives the people that child marriage affects a chance to speak for themselves.

Sonita Alizadeh’s History

Sonita Alizadeh and members of her family escaped Taliban rule in Afghanistan and journeyed to Tehran, Iran. There, Sonita began creating music, although it is illegal for women to sing a solo in the country. Her music was about the hardships she had seen her friends endure in Afghanistan when their parents encouraged them to marry as young as 12.

Sonita had to advocate for herself at 16 when her mother visited her from Afghanistan. Sonita received the opportunity to return to her home country if agreed to marry. Her mother planned to have a dowry set with a man for $9,000 for Sonita as a bride. This prompted Sonita to make her first YouTube video in response to her predicament, the video “Brides for Sale.” The video got the attention of the Strongheart organization in the U.S. The group sponsored 17-year-old Sonita in 2014 with a student visa to attend Wasatch Academy in Utah on a full scholarship. Sonita’s first concert in America was in May 2015, and she began sending money home to her mother living in Afghanistan.

Sonita’s Activism

After moving to the U.S., Sonita Alizadeh used her platform to speak about child marriage. Her YouTube channel has 12 videos that range from her music to interviews to Sonita’s graduation speech from Wasatch Academy in 2018. Sonita uses her platform to educate the 11.1 thousand subscribers she had as of 2019. BBC listed Sonita as one of its 100 women people should recognize in 2015 and inspired a European documentary based on her life that premiered in 2016 and won a NETPAC Award.

Recently, Sonita debuted a new song at the 2018 Social Good Summit concert in New York City. As of 2019, Sonita attends Bard College in New York where she represented her school in the Women Warriors: The Voices of Change concert event at the Lincoln Center in September 2019. Organizations such as the Strongheart Group, Global Citizen and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Organization support Sonita’s Alizadeh’s feminist advocacy.

Conclusion

The voices of Afghan women are vital in battling injustice. Sonita Alizadeh’s feminist advocacy highlights the determination of one woman to empower women forced into child marriages. The light Sonita sheds on the hardships Afghan women are also valuable as a form of advocacy, making those who did not grow up with her background understand the needs of women in dire situations.

Natalie Casaburi
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in Saudi Arabia
Many know Saudi Arabia as one of the richest countries in the world. With the second largest natural oil reserve underground, Saudi Arabia is rapidly accumulating wealth and political power in international affairs. However, there is a dark side to the flashy urban lights of Saudi Arabia. The wealth gap that exists between the rich and the poor, coupled with the country’s patriarchal tradition and its recent conflict with the Houthi movement in Yemen, puts many Saudi and immigrant children in danger of child labor, violence and economic exploitation. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Saudi Arabia.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Saudi Arabia

  1. Poverty is the main cause of Saudi Arabia’s Child Labor. While Saudi Arabia is famous for its wealth, thanks in large part to the second-largest oil deposits in the world, there is a big economic disparity between the poor and the rich. According to a study that the Saudi Arabian government funded in 2015, 22 percent of families in Saudi Arabia depend on their children’s income.
  2. The minimum employment age is 13. In the royal decree of 1969, Saudi Arabia enacted a law that set the minimum employment age to 13 years old and banned children from working in hazardous conditions. This does not apply to works in the family business, domestic labor and agricultural work. Some employers of Saudi Arabia exploit a loophole in the law. For example, this law does not address the child brides of Saudi Arabia. If a child bride does any house chores or agricultural work for her husband’s family, it will not be a violation of the minimum employment age law.
  3. There are cases of child labor trafficking from neighboring countries. Stemming from Saudi Arabia’s recent conflict with Yemen, which left Yemen devastated, wartorn and practically lawless, some Yemeni parents are seeking illegal agents who will traffick their children to Saudi Arabia. While some Yemeni parents traffick their children to Saudi Arabia to save them from the desperate conditions in Yemen, other parents traffick their children in hopes of economic relief provided by their children’s labor in Saudi Arabia. While deportation is the main concern of many Yemeni parents for their trafficked children, many trafficked Yemeni children are in danger of violence, hunger and sexual abuse.
  4. Child workers usually have parents who have low professional and education level. The low education and professional level of child workers’ parents, coupled with economic disparity, make poverty in Saudi Arabia hereditary. Saudi Arabia is taking steps to ameliorate this issue. In early 2018, the Saudi government declared that it aims to eradicate adult illiteracy by 2024. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education established adult education centers across the country and launched the Learning Neighborhood program in 2006 in pursuit of this goal.
  5. Children of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia do not have protection under a law that prohibits forced or compulsory labor. Saudi Arabia’s labor law does prohibit forced labor, however, these measures do not extend to over 12 million migrant workers in the country. Some employers exploit this loophole in the labor laws, which sometimes results in physical, mental and sexual abuse of migrant workers and their children.
  6. Saudi Arabia’s citizenship requirement puts Saudi children in danger of child labor and human trafficking. A Saudi child’s citizenship comes from his or her father. If a child has a citizen mother and a non-citizen father, or from a mother who is not legally married to a citizen father, there is a chance that the country will consider the child a stateless person. As a result of being stateless, Saudi Arabia can deny a child state education, and in certain cases, medical attention. According to the U.S. Department of State, about 5 percent of street begging children in Saudi Arabia are Saudi nationals of unknown parents.
  7. The Saudi government is working with the international community to combat child labor. In 2016, with technical advisory services support from the International Labour Organization (ILO), Saudi Arabia ratified its report for ILO’s Minimum Age Convention of 1973. According to the United Nations’ 2016 report on Saudi Arabia’s adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Saudi Arabia adopted and implemented regulations against child abuse and human trafficking. As part of the new labor reforms and regulations in 2015, for example, the Labor Ministry of Saudi Arabia can impose SR $20,000 ($5,333) on employers who employ children under 15-years old.
  8. In 2014, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) launched a campaign against child labor in Saudi Arabia. For 19-days, WWSF campaigned to raise awareness for child labor, abuse and violence against children and youth. The National Family Safety Program of Saudi Arabia also launched its four-day program which raised awareness for economic exploitation and abuse of children in Saudi Arabia. Through these campaigns, both WWSF and the Saudi government aimed to reduce child labor in Saudi Arabia by highlighting that child labor contributes to the abuse of children by harming children’s health, physical development, psychological health and access to education.
  9. UNICEF and the Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs opened a reception center for trafficked Yemeni children. Many trafficked Yemeni children end up in the streets of Saudi Arabian cities as beggars or street vendors. In the worst cases, these trafficked children are under severe danger of exploitation and abuse. When the Saudi authorities detained them, these Yemeni children usually went to prison or open-air enclosures with adult deportees. The center provides shelter for these children.
  10. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aims to address the country’s poverty. Launched in April 2016, the Saudi government plans to address the country’s poverty by improving state education and empowering nonprofit organizations. These improvements can lead to making more opportunities available for the children and parents of poor economic background, potentially reducing child labor in Saudi Arabia. In this pursuit, the Saudi government granted $51 billion to the education sector. The Ministry of education established educational centers all around the country to improve adult literacy and theories determine that this improvement in adult literacy will also improve child literacy.

Child labor in Saudi Arabia is both a local and international issue. While the stateless and poor children of Saudi Arabia turn to street vending and begging to support their families, many trafficked Yemeni children in the country are under constant threat of violence and exploitation. These 10 facts about child labor in Saudi Arabia show that with the help of the international community and the Saudi government’s increasing awareness of its less fortunate populace, a better future awaits for the children of Saudi Arabia.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

7 facts about poverty in KabulKabul is the capital of Afghanistan with a population of 37 million people. Although there are efforts for improvements, Afghanistan still suffers from high rates of poverty. Here are seven facts about poverty in Kabul.

7 Facts About Poverty in Kabul

  1. Education: According to UNICEF, 3.7 million children in Afghanistan are out of school, 60 percent of which are girls. A few reasons for the low enrollment rates include poor sanitation systems in schools. Another reason is the lack of female teachers, particularly in rural areas. Female teachers are required for some because it is not allowed for male teachers to teach young girls. In addition, inadequate transportation in certain areas of the country makes it difficult for children to attend school.
  2. Child Labor: About a quarter of children in Afghanistan between the ages of five and 14 work or help their families. Many children are employed in jobs that can lead to an illness, injury or death due to dangerous working conditions and improper enforcement of safety and health standards. Children hold jobs in metal industries, agriculture, shoe shiners, and in the streets as vendors. Unfortunately, some children are forced to take on the pressures of going to school and work while others must quit school completely. In addition, children work long hours with little pay to no pay. However, UNICEF is supporting the National Strategy for Children at Risk, a strategy designed by the Ministry of Martyrs, Disabled and Social Affairs and partnered with UNICEF and other organizations that will help vulnerable families protect and care for their children. The main goal of this plan is for children to be protected from abuse, exploitation or violence in Afghanistan. In addition, the strategy will offer support to communities and vulnerable families. Another policy is the National Strategy for Street Working Children, which provides interventions such as family and community-based support systems for street children and their families to protect, prevent and decrease the number of children that work in the streets.
  3. Sex Trafficking: According to the USAID, Afghanistan happens to be a source, transit and destination country for forced labor and sex trafficking among men, women and children. However, efforts are being made to tackle this issue through the Combating Human Trafficking in Afghanistan project. This project is a collaboration of USAID and the International Organization for Migration that prepares the Afghanistan government institutions to contribute in the prevention of trafficking, prosecution of traffickers, victim protection and to enhance regional coordination in the fight against cross border trafficking.
  4. Literacy Rates: According to UNESCO, in Kabul, the highest female literacy rate is 34.7 percent and males at 68 percent. The difference in rates is due to a few factors such as women not being allowed to attend school, unsafe to travel to school and cultural norms. In addition, rates in urban and rural areas differ to due lack of schools in remote areas and extensive distances to travel for school. However, UNESCO has implemented a project called the which is a national program of the Ministry of Education that helps improve literacy and numeracy skills of the adult population in 34 provinces. The ELA Programme began in 2008 and since its launching, it has increased the literacy for over 600,000 adults and over 60 percent of them are women.
  5. Water: In Afghanistan, 79 percent of the population live in rural areas and only 27 percent have access to upgraded water sources. In Kabul, about 80 percent of people do not have access to safe drinking water. In addition, 95 percent do not have access to proper sanitation facilities. Due to lack of access to sanitation, about 20 percent of the population excretes in public.
  6. Health: According to the World Health Organization, Afghanistan has the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Approximately half of children under the age of five are stunted due to chronic malnutrition and 10 percent have chronic malnutrition. Over 60 percent of all childhood deaths and disabilities in Afghanistan are due to respiratory infections, diarrhea and deaths that could’ve been prevented though vaccines such as measles.
    Despite these statistics, USAID has partnered with the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan to make healthcare services more accessible to all. During October 2017 and September 2018, USAID delivered more than 900,000 institutionalized deliveries at public health facilities. In addition, over 1.4 million children were given PENTA3 vaccinations. Furthermore, with the financial help of USAID and other international donors, the World Bank supported more than 2400 public health facilities and 94 percent of the facilities have at least 1 female health care provider.
  7. Child marriages: In Afghanistan, 35 percent of girls are married before they turn 18 and 9 percent are married before their 15th birthday. Child marriages occur due to various factors such as family practices, traditional customs and level of education. However, there are several organizations dedicated to ending child marriages such as Girls Not Brides. This organization is a global partnership of over 1000 civil organizations from more than 95 countries. It was founded in 2011 by a group of independent global leaders called The Elders that aims to raise awareness on child marriages, facilitate open conversations and provide support for victims. In addition, the organization works closely with girls to help build skills, empower them and developing support networks.

These seven facts about poverty in Kabul demonstrate major issues that could use improvement. Nonetheless, with the help and support of organizations little by little change will happen.

– Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Ending Child MarriagesChild marriage is one of the biggest problems affecting young women in third world countries. Roughly 15 million girls under age 18 are married every year. That translates to around 41,000 girls every day. Child marriage affects young girls throughout third world countries by cutting off their access to education, harming their health and making them more susceptible to cases of domestic and sexual violence. Child marriage also puts a strain on a country’s economy and will end up costing them trillions of dollars over the next 10 years. Though the statistics appear devastating, several organizations are dedicated to ending child marriages in third world countries.

Africa, Asia and the Middle East have the highest percentages of child marriage. Research done by CARE, an organization fighting global poverty, provided the top 26 countries where girls under the age of 18 are more likely to get married rather than enroll in secondary school. The country with the lowest percentage of girls enrolled in secondary school is Niger with only 10 percent. However, 76 percent of girls in Niger are married before age 18. Other countries with significantly low enrollment rates include Somalia, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

Girls Not Brides

Girls Not Brides became an independent charity in 2013. It is an organization committed to ending child marriages. There are 1,300 civil organizations from 100 countries involved in the organization. The sole intention of Girls Not Brides is to end child marriage so girls can live a fulfilling and healthy life. Its main goal is to bring global attention to child marriage and support laws or programs that will protect girls worldwide from the dangers of child marriage.

Girls Not Brides also offers support to those who were already married all over the world. They believe that the minimum age for marriage should be 18 years old for both boys and girls. This is in accordance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Girls Not Brides aims to encourage an open dialogue about the dangers of child marriage, work with other organizations to end child marriage and help to introduce different policies and funding to end child marriage.

In 2016, Girls Not Brides published a strategy set on their plan to tackle child marriage from 2017 until 2020. The plan is an overarching blueprint of what the organization wants to do that is based on their successes in its 2014-2016 plan. Its number one goal is to work with governments to get child marriage legislation passed as well as bring it to the attention of lawmakers. Other goals include globalizing, engaging communities, increasing their funding and donations, using facts and evidence to further their claims about child marriage and setting up partnerships with other organizations.

Other Organizations Fighting Child Marriages

Even though Girls Not Brides is one of the only organization that is dedicated specifically to fighting child marriage, there are other organizations that have made ending child marriages a part of their mission. CARE focuses on ending global poverty through women’s empowerment. Breakthrough uses more artistic and creative means to fight for social justice, which includes children’s rights. Humanim is an NGO fighting for children’s rights and protections.

On a more local level, some organizations focus nationally. In Egypt, the Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions works under the Childs Rights International Network to protect the basic human rights of children. Seya, in Yemen, is a children’s rights organization that puts protecting children as its most important mission. Vasavya Mahila Mandali, which is one of two organizations based in India that believes in empowering women and children.

Child marriage is a huge issue for girls and young women globally. It is one of the top three things holding girls back from obtaining an education and living their lives to the fullest potential. Child marriage violates a young girl’s autonomy and puts her in danger of being seriously injured or, at worst, killed. The existence of Girls Not Brides and the other organizations that are dedicated to ending child marriages and working to educate the public about it are making the world a better place for those who are at risk of becoming a child bride.

Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr

child marriage in Yemen

Yemen, a Middle Eastern country of just over 26 million people, has many issues to deal with at the moment. The country is currently immersed in a civil war and is politically unstable. However, one issue in Yemen that has not gotten as much attention is the prevalence of child marriage in the country. In Yemen, almost 33 percent of girls are married before the age of 18 and 9 percent are married before the age of 15.

Poverty and Violence

Yemen was already the poorest country in the Middle East before the civil war broke out in 2015 and the conflict has only worsened the situation. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced due to the fighting, losing all of their possessions in the process. As families have become desperate for money, more and more girls are being married off in exchange for financial benefits.

The war has also disrupted the operations of social services in Yemen and made it harder for aid organizations to assist children and prevent them from being married off against their wills. Additionally, the conflict has allowed for the rise of armed groups within Yemen. A number of girls have been forcibly married to armed militia members for sexual exploitation. Much of this activity can be attributed to Ansar-al-Sharia, which is an offshoot of Al-Qaeda.

Cultural Norms

The prevalence of child marriage in Yemen is prompted in some cases by cultural norms and expected gender roles. The culture in Yemen tends to be patriarchal and male-dominated. For instance, Article 40 of the Personal Status Law says that women must obey their husbands, including asking his permission to leave the house. This legislation and culture it has helped create are not conducive to granting young girls rights with regards to who they marry; as such, there needs to be a cultural shift in the country to improve conditions for women and girls.

Effects of Child Marriage

Early marriage forces girls into harmful sexual relationships and often results in young girls undergoing dangerous pregnancies, a big reason why maternal and child mortality rates are high in Yemen. Child marriage also means many girls are denied an education, as they usually drop out of school to become wives. In some cases, parents take their daughters out of school even earlier because they believe that it is a waste of time to send their daughters to school at all when they plan to marry them off into a different family in the near future.

Improvement Efforts

Recently, the government of Yemen has taken some positive steps towards improving the issue of child marriage in the country. In 2015, for example, Yemen signed on to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), which included a target of pursuing gender equality and reducing the number of child and forced marriages around the world. Yemen’s government also recently passed an amendment to their constitution that legally prohibits marriage before the age of 18; however, as documented above, this provision has not been adhered to over the last 4 years due to the challenges presented by the Yemen Civil War.

Various groups are also working to combat child marriage in Yemen. For instance, the Expanded Service Delivery (ESD) Project, a nonprofit affiliated with USAID, is working on the “Safe Age of Marriage” intervention. This program seeks to alter social norms and cultural attitudes which allow for child marriage. Additionally, the program seeks to encourage girls’ education and protect girls’ rights. It has already been run as a trial program in the Al-Sawd and Al-Soodeh districts, which are two regions where only 8 percent of girls ages 15-17 are in school. The program ran for a year in these districts and after this time surveys showed that 95 percent of community members acknowledged the benefits of delaying marriage to adulthood, which was an increase of 18 percent from the onset of the program. In the future, the ESD Project will look to expand their work to other districts in Yemen.

Conclusion

While child marriage in Yemen is a major problem at this point in time, there is hope for the future. If the Yemen government can provide support for girls’ rights and help to enforce the constitutional amendment that was passed in 2015, then the situation should improve. In addition, it is important for NGOs around the world to continue funding efforts to help protect young children in Yemen from being married against their will.

– Clarissa Cooney
Photo: Flickr