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terminating child marriage
Child marriage and its confining consequences affect 650 million women across the world and violate human rights. Some of these are access to health care and economic opportunity. While UNICEF databases indicate that the prevalence of child marriage has considerably decreased by at least 6 percent since 1995, child marriage rates remain urgent and concerning; 12 million girls under 18 enter a marriage or early union globally each year.

The persistence of child marriage in a globalized age remains a barrier that obstructs the world from achieving international social justice. Aims to discover the key to terminating child marriage is only a modern development, as child marriage had been the norm virtually everywhere up until the 20th century. In the 21st century, the practice conflicts with a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the U.N. in 2015, such as gender equality, no poverty and decent work and economic growth.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

  1. Gender equality: Women make up the vast majority of child marriage victims, largely lacking the necessary empowerment from their communities to escape such conditions. Often feeling as though they lack any other choice, they enter the immobilizing hands of long-held social norms and thus continuing gender inequalities. Subsequently, they are unable to escape their impoverished conditions.
  2. No poverty: Just as poverty is a consequence of child marriage, it too serves as a driving cause. In rural regions where large family sizes and poverty commonly go hand in hand, families send off young daughters in arranged marriages as an attempt to reduce their financial burden. The attempt largely fails, however, and the cycle of poverty for these families and girls continues.
  3. Decent work and economic growth: Barred from freedom and choice in major life decisions, it is no surprise that these 15 million child victims entering marriage each year lack economic independence. Not only do these conditions mean the disabling of girls from unlocking their potential, but according to Economic Impacts of Child Marriage research, it also restrains countries, where child marriage is most prominent, from achieving significant and otherwise attainable economic growth.

Other SDGs that clash with child marriage include quality education and reduced inequalities. Given the prevalence and urgency of this human rights issue, to make true progress within the variety of goals, the U.N. set Target 5.3 of the SDGs to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.”

The UN’s Inter-Agency Program

Latin America and the Caribbean are regions with the highest prevalence of child marriage, following Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. As such, the U.N. made it a priority to target this region to accomplish SDG target 5.3. Specifically, it intended to accomplish this with an inter-agency program covering five countries.

  1. The Dominican Republic, where 36 percent of girls married before 18 in 2017.
  2. Guatemala, where 30 percent of girls married before 18.
  3. Colombia, where 23 percent of girls married before 18.
  4. El Salvador, where 26 percent of girls married before 18.
  5. Mexico, where 26 percent of girls married before 18.

This program involved the uniting of the UNPF, UNICEF and U.N. Women in October 2017 to discuss their shared experiences alongside Latin American inter-institutional actors. Moreover, it was “to identify common challenges and strategies and develop national and regional roadmaps to contribute to compliance with the SDGs” according to UNICEF’s official file.

Those involved included members of civil society and international organizations, government officials and even adolescent girls serving as the program’s youth network representatives. The U.N. uses the power of diversity to effectively analyze, evaluate and prescribe for the pressing matter at hand.

Four Main Program Outcomes

The program ultimately proved that communication and cooperation among these diverse parties are key to terminating child marriage. The first step to progress is to discover and discuss the root causes of the critical issue. Through mutual respect for one another and collective discussion, key causes that participants agreed upon during the program included poverty and inequalities, as well as gender-based violence. With their first-hand experiences, the adolescent representatives disclosed the majority of the drivers discussed. Key causes they shared included school dropout, social harassment and the lack of resources available for pregnant and/or married girls.

Four main outcomes came out of the program, agreed upon by all involved parties as key to terminating child marriage. They were as follows:

  1. Create legal reforms to raise the legal age of marriage in all countries with no exceptions. Participants thoroughly discussed challenges in doing so and in promoting awareness of such legal changes. Since the program, a legislation change that occurred was the Mexico Senate’s approval of a total ban on underage marriage.
  2. Promote policies and services in the areas of health, education and gender equality, among others, and make them far more accessible in all regions. Involved parties agreed that a key means of doing so would require working at the community level and from among civil society, such as teaching males the good of gender equality.
  3. Empower girls in all Latin American and Caribbean countries. This would be accomplished by teaching adolescent girls their sexual rights as well as using social networks to reach and further educate them. This method would be particularly effective since there is a rising amount of internet usage in Latin America.
  4. Create a multilateral platform to maximize efficiency in the fight against child marriage within Latin America and beyond. The collaboration innate to this program would optimistically enter the future with cooperative methods such as pooling resources and advocating for girls’ rights internationally.

Countries should consider each of the four outcomes when implementing future national and international developments and projects meant to end underage marriage. The evident prioritizing of international cooperation is key to terminating child marriage. While the battle in doing so is far from over, the future appears bright as endeavors for correspondence and correlating declines in child marriage rates represent the necessary effort— and potential— for change.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in IndiaChild marriage is any formal or informal marriage of one or both individuals under the age of 18. Not only a human rights violation, child marriage also negatively affects a child’s health, physical growth, mental and emotional development and education opportunities. Some reasons for child marriage are poverty, lack of education, political and financial reasons, gender inequalities and improper implementation of the law. Both girls and boys are affected by child marriages; however, girls are affected at a much higher rate. Of 223 million child brides, 102 million are married before they turn 15. One in three of the world’s child marriages are located in India. Fortunately, these four nonprofit organizations fighting child marriage in India are dedicated to making a change.

4 Nonprofit Organizations Fighting Child Marriage in India

  1. Saarthi Trust: Rehabilitation psychologist Kriti Bhartihe founded Saarthi Trust in 2011. This organization’s main focus is working on the establishment of rights for women and children, child marriage annulment and protection for women and children. Saarthi Trust is the first organization to annul a child marriage in India. Since then, they have successfully annulled 30 marriages and prevented 900. In addition, this organization has rehabilitated 6,000 children and 5,500 women. The Saarthi Trust also offers programs for mental support and education for women and children.  
  2. Aangan Trust: Suparna Gupta founded Aangan Trust in 2002. It works to ensure protection from trafficking, hazardous work, child marriages and violence. This organization trains women to work with child survivors to guarantee that there is no further harm. The women are trained in active listening skills, building empathy and linking children and families to existing services to help reduce risks. This will allow the children to heal, restore their dignity and get back into the community. In addition, these women also build connections with key government agencies, the police and Child Welfare Protection to go through with care plans and to monitor the children’s progress. 
  3. Girls Not Brides: Dedicated to ending child marriages, a group of independent global leaders called The Elders founded the global partnership of Girls Not Brides in 2011. There are members of this organization India, Kenya, Mexico and Senegal. The organization’s main goals are to raise awareness of the negative impact child marriages have through an open, informed and inclusive conversation with communities, facilitate learning with organizations ending child marriages and mobilize policy to end child marriages. The organization works directly with girls by helping them build skills, empowering them and developing support networks. 
  4. Institute of Health Management Pachod (IHMP): Two doctors started IHMP, a nonprofit organization that addresses public health concerns of marginalized groups in India, in 1986. Their main focus is to help vulnerable young girls in rural communities. The IHMP provides life skills and education to these girls in order to make positive life decisions and prevent child marriages. There are several programs offered that support and empower young girls. The institute’s community-based teachers conduct classes that help young girls learn how to negotiate to delay marriage so they can continue their education.

Although child marriages continue to exist, these four nonprofit organizations fighting child marriage in India not only have a positive impact but generate hope for many young boys and girls. 

Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Ending Child MarriagesEven in 2019, child marriage remains a global problem. Every year, 12 million girls from all around the world will get married before the age of 18. Child marriage is rooted in gender inequality and poverty because in many communities’ girls are still seen as a burden on the family. Marriage is often considered the best way to assure their future. However, there are many organizations and individuals tackling the problem of gender inequality and child marriage. Below are

Five activists whose work is ending child marriages

  1. Nada Al-Ahdal defends children’s rights.
    Nada Al-Ahdal is a Yemeni activist with a personal connection to escaping child marriage. In 2013, at the age of 11, Nada Al-Ahdal ran away from her family’s home in order to prevent a forced marriage to a 26-year-old man. During her escape, Nada Al-Ahdal made a video explaining how, if the marriage had gone through, she would have lost her chance at an education and ruined her life. Furthermore, she would have lost her childhood.
    In the first month of the video being posted, it received more than 8 million views. Nada Al-Ahdal has appeared on Lebanese and Yemeni television, spreading her message for ending child marriages. In 2018, at just 15 years old, Nada founded the Nada Foundation to protect and defend children’s rights. The foundation offers to safe havens. Additionally, it has a number of awareness programs focused on protecting children.
  2. Nice Nailantei Leng’ete speaks out against child marriage.
    At eight years old, Nice Nailantei Leng’ete ran away from her home village in Kenya. She did this in order to avoid undergoing female genital mutilation. As an adult, Nice Nailantei Leng’ete has become an activist that negotiates with village elders in Kenya to convince them to adopt alternative rites of passage for girls. She is an officer with Amref Health Africa. Additionally, it is estimated that her work has saved more than 15,000 girls in Kenya for genital mutilation and child marriage. Nice Nailantei Leng’ete now speaks out on a global stage against mutilation and child marriage in Africa. In 2018, she even was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
  3. Fatoumata Sabaly enacts change as an activist.
    Fatoumata Sabaly is from Senegal, where child marriage and female genital mutilation is still fairly common. She is a respected member of her community as a grandmother and mother. She leverages this position as an activist through the Grandmother Project. The Grandmother Project is an NGO that uses the status of elders in communities to enact change and improve the well-being of women and children.
    Fatoumata Sabaly has explained the important work she does in the project: “Sometimes, girls come to tell me their parents are marrying them off, even though they want to stay in school. When this happens, I go to their parents. Out of respect for me, the parents listen to my advice and let their daughters stay in school.” Her activism and authority are helping girls stay in school and out of unwanted marriages.
  4. Arvind Ojha leads an organization fighting child marriage and violence against females.
    Arvind Ojha is the head of URMUL Trust, an organization active in the Indian state of Rajasthan for more than 25 years. Rajasthan has one of the worst child marriage rates in all of India. URMUL Trust works hard in ending child marriage, female genital mutilation and female foeticide. Arvind Ojha has said that “[URMUL Trust doesn’t] just focus on engaging women and children in programs but also older people and even religious leaders. Change is happening. The average age of marriage for girls is increasing.”
    In 2005, URMUL Trust launched a program in the districts of Sri Ganganagar, Hanumangarh and Jaisalmer called “Dignity of the Girl Child”. The program was aimed at ending child marriages, domestic violence and female infanticide. In 2011, URMUL Trust became partners with Girls Not Brides in order to strengthen their work to ending child marriage.
  5. Isatou Jeng defends women through advocacy.
    At 15 years old, Isatou Jeng found herself pregnant and with enormous pressure to get married. What she did next broke many societal norms in her home country of Gambia. She demonstrated her passion in ending child marriages by saying, “I stood my ground, refused to marry, and saw education as the best chance for a better life for me and my child.”
    Presently, she leads The Girls Agenda, a nonprofit she founded. The purpose of the organization is to fight for other girls facing gender-based violence and child marriage. Throughout her career as an activist, she has also worked as the advocacy and campaign officer for the Network against Gender-Based Violence. This is a group of organizations that works to defend women and girls in Gambia.
    In 2018, at a conference for women who transform the world, Isatou Jeng said about her involvement with The Girls Agenda, “I did not become a feminist, I was born a feminist.”

Every minute, 23 girls under the age of 18 are married around the world. Consequently, this is the reason that the work these activists and their organizations do is so important and urgent. Even in an era where child brides seem to be a relic of the past, ending child marriages is still a critical issue.

– Isabel Fernandez
Photo: Flickr

Seven Facts About Girls' Education in Paraguay
The Republic of Paraguay, one of the smaller South American countries, is in the center of the continent, landlocked by Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. Although the country’s economy has improved in recent years, the poverty rate in Paraguay was 28.8 percent as of 2017. In rural areas, the figure increased to nearly 40 percent. The U.N. states that educating girls, helping them become empowered, enabling them to work and become community leaders are powerful ways to fight poverty. While girls’ access to education in Paraguay is better than in many other countries, the country still displays disparities in opportunity between male and female Paraguayans. These seven facts about girls’ education demonstrate the barriers to education access that girls in Paraguay face and some efforts to remove these barriers.

Seven Facts about Girls’ Education in Paraguay

  1. Girls’ and women’s literacy rates are rising. According to UNESCO, the literacy rate among the female population aged 15 years and older has risen from 75.85 percent in 1982 to 93.84 percent in 2016. The female literacy rate remains below the male rate, which was 81.83 percent in 2016, but the gap between them has narrowed over the past decade.
  2. Illiteracy rates are higher in rural areas than in urban areas. According to the Pan American Health Organization, the illiteracy rate in Paraguay differs between men and women as well as between people living in urban and rural areas. As of 2010, the illiteracy rate was three percent for urban men, 6.8 percent for rural men, 3.9 percent for urban women and 9.5 percent for rural women. While women’s illiteracy rates are higher than men’s in both areas, rural women are at a particular disadvantage.
  3. As of 2012, 42,490 school-aged girls did not attend school. Girls’ school attendance drops sharply from primary school to secondary school. For both male and female students, the percentage of eligible people who attend school is significantly lower for secondary school than for primary school. Based on survey data collected from 2008 to 2012, UNICEF reports that 83.9 percent of eligible girls enrolled in primary school compared with only 63.4 percent enrolled in secondary school.
  4. More girls than boys enrolled in secondary school. Despite the drop off in female school enrollment from primary to secondary school, a slightly larger percentage of eligible girls enroll in secondary school than eligible boys of the same age.
  5. Many girls stop attending school due to marriage and having children. According to UNICEF data from 2017, 18 percent of girls in Paraguay married by the age of 18 and two percent married by the age of 15. This is a particularly prevalent issue for girls living in poverty. According to Girls Not Brides, a global organization with the goal of ending child marriage, rural girls in Paraguay married before age 18 more than 35 percent of the time in 2017. In addition to high marriage rates for girls, UNICEF data from 2006 to 2010 show the adolescent birth rate to have been 63 births per 1,000 adolescent women and girls. In 2002, 12 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 were mothers.
  6. Despite girls having some access to education, Paraguay still has a long way to go in reaching equality for women. In 2018, only 10.4 percent of elected mayors in the country and 15 percent of legislators were women.
  7. The Paraguayan government has presented a plan to advance the cause of gender equality. The plan, called the National Equality Plan, calls for more women in government and a fight against gendered violence. Specifics of the plan include the elimination of gender discrimination in law and the establishment of a governmental body with the intention of preventing and monitoring gendered violence. The plan, which will be supervised by U.N. Women, aims to achieve its goals by 2030.

While these seven facts about girls’ education in Paraguay indicate that gender equality has advanced significantly, girls and women in the country do not yet have opportunities equal to those afforded to boys and men. Some people, however, have worked hard to put a plan in place to work toward a solution. These facts about girls’ education emphasize the work that will be necessary to make further strides toward gender equality in Paraguay.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Unsplash

Eight Facts About Education in Togo
The Togolese Republic (Togo) is a small West African country on the Gulf of New Guinea that borders Ghana and Benin. With a GDP of $4.75 billion and a GNI per capita of $610, Togo is one of the poorest countries in the world. Togo’s education system has faced development setbacks due to various political, monetary and societal reasons yet it remains one of the stronger education systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. These eight facts about education in Togo demonstrate the progress made in certain areas and the need for progress in others.

8 Facts About Education in Togo

  1. Primary Schooling is Compulsory and Free — Due to its history as the French colony of Togoland, education in Togo follows the French model of primary, secondary and higher schooling. Starting at age six, primary education is mandatory for six years. Prior to 2008, public school fees created barriers for impoverished families to send their children to school, but in 2008, UNICEF partnered with Togo’s government to abolish public primary school fees. Togo’s net primary school enrollment was 90 percent in 2017 which is high.
  2. Secondary Education Enrollment Rates are Low — In 2017, only 41 percent of the children eligible enrolled in secondary education. This is an improvement from 2000 when only 23.53 percent of children enrolled in secondary schooling; however, the large enrollment gap between primary and secondary education remains due to costly secondary education fees, poor quality of primary education and the lack of access to schooling in rural areas.
  3. Togo has had Recurring Teacher Strikes — Since 2013, teachers have gone on lengthy strikes numerous times because they were unsatisfied with their working conditions, large class sizes or pay. Teacher salaries in Togo range from $33 to $111 per month while the minimum wage is $64 per month. After months of strikes, the Togo government signed an agreement with trade unions in the spring of 2018, but the future will tell whether this will improve teaching conditions.
  4. Enrollment Rates Do Not Translate into Higher Student Success — Despite having more children enrolled in school, Togo has had increased amounts of students repeating school years and failing to graduate. Several students (37.6 percent) dropped out of primary school in 2012 and 32.42 percent of secondary school students dropped out in 2015.
  5. There is a Gender Disparity in Togo Schooling — In every level of schooling except pre-primary, there are 10 percent fewer girls enrolled than boys. The literacy rate for males in Togo is 77.26 percent and only 51.24 percent for women, which shows a large literacy gap between the sexes. Early or forced marriages force many girls to leave school. International NGO’s such as Girls Not Brides are working in Togo to meet its commitment to end child, early and forced marriages by 2030.
  6. Low Educational Equality for the Rural and Poor — Togo is made up of primarily rural areas and 69 percent of its rural households live under the poverty line as of 2015. Secondary schools tend to be sparse in rural areas with few resources while urban areas tend to have more clusters of secondary schools with more resources. Sixty-eight percent of eligible males and 54 percent of females in urban areas enroll in secondary education while only 45 percent of eligible males and 33 percent of females in rural areas attend secondary school.
  7. The Literacy Rate is Improving Among the Youth of Togo — Adult literacy is around 64 percent while the literacy of those aged 15-25 is 84 percent in Togo. This fact about education in Togo shows progress within creating basic and more widespread educational services such as free primary schooling.
  8. Togo’s Education Strategy for 2014-2025 has Four Important Objectives — The government objectives for improving education include developing quality universal primary education by 2022 and extending pre-primary coverage to rural and poorer areas. In addition, it plans to develop quality secondary, vocational and higher education and decrease the illiteracy rate.

These eight facts about education in Togo show that there is still much to improve in terms of greater educational equality, the availability of key educational resources, gender equality and creating a system of quality education levels. Progress, however, is still occurring as school enrollment and literacy rates increase substantially. The combined efforts of the Togo government and outside organizations are helping accomplish Togo’s education goals.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

 

Women Activists in Developing CountriesThere are many reasons for people around the world to use their voices and advocate for social equality. Here is a list of five women activists in developing countries.

Top 5 Women Activists in Developing Countries

  1. Kriti Bharti
    The founder of the Girls Not Brides movement in Rajasthan, northern India, Kriti Bharti prevented over 900 child marriages. Kriti established the Saarthi Trust in 2011 to pull girls from forced child marriages and to educate them on their societal rights. Bharti is both a social activist and a rehabilitation psychologist. She set up rehabilitation programs for the girls released from child marriage.The Girls Not Brides movement has forums that provide food, shelter and water for girls banished from their families. The forums also include educating girls on their societal rights and providing them with life skills such as sowing. Twenty-seven percent of girls in India marry before the age of 18 resulting in India being the highest country with child brides. The Saarthi Trust was the first organization in India to annul a marriage and annulled 31 other child marriages since 2012.

    Poverty is a leading cause that resolves itself in child marriage. Usually, families marry off their young daughter to help alleviate finances; the younger the bride, the lower the dowry (a form of payment). Gender norms also play a key factor in child marriages. A girl is of lower value in general. Typically, females are not able to contribute to society because of this, leading their value to be held in household chores and motherhood. Moreover, a woman’s value is upheld in her benefitting her marital family more than her blood family. Thus, the family will usually educate their sons rather than their daughters.

    The South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) takes local action against abuse towards children by providing shelter with food and water and by educating girls in jobs. The Sustainable Development Goals stated that India is striving to end child marriages and forced labor by the year 2030.

  2. Malala Yousafzai
    Malala is now a household name across the world. The youngest person awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014; she now uses her voice and her story to speak for the women around the globe who could not. “I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls,” Yousafzai said.After she spoke out against education oppression towards girls in 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Malala in the head in 2012. Then, she began the Malala Fund. The Malala Fund now reaches six different countries; Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria. In each country, it recruits female teachers and tries to bridge the gap between gender disparity in education. It also educates teachers and students on gender discrimination, teaches girls how to speak about their rights, gives free secondary schooling and campaigns for new policies advocating for girls’ education. The goal of Malala’s Fund is to give girls “12 years of free, safe, quality education.”
  3. Holida, Suci and Ria
    The Yes I Do project of Indonesia began with three girls advocating against child marriage in their village and country. Holida, Suci, both 18, and Ria, 16, advocated that the abuse’s of child marriage is everyone’s responsibility to end. The Yes I Do project strives to prevent child abuse and forced sexual acts due to the selling of young girls into marriage. The project exposes the effects that sexual abuse has and the ways it affects reproductive health.Through village forums and discussions, the girls highlighted with their fellow neighbors that they have the same rights as boys do. Through their voices, child marriage cannot go unnoticed. Now, when a girl is forced or marries young, people talk about it. This gives fire to Holida, Suci and Ria’s campaign. The girls plan on making a movie to take to other villages around their own. “We want everyone to know why child marriage is wrong so that girls everywhere can achieve their dreams,” Suci said.
  4. Manal al-Sharif
    Manal al-Sharif, an Iraqi woman, co-founded the Women to Drive movement bringing awareness to the oppression of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and bringing back the ability for women to drive. In 1957, Saudi Arabia decreed that women could no longer drive. In 1990, a large protest took place where 47 women drove around the country’s capital. Over 20 years later, in 2011, Manal al-Sharif started the Facebook campaign called Women to Drive to spread awareness of their oppression.Later that same year, al-Sharif and fellow co-founder, Wajeha al-Huwaider, recorded a video of themselves driving and speaking out against the difficulty of being a woman and commuting. In June 2018, King Salman issued a decree that Saudi women could obtain a driver’s license. Al-Sharif and the women advocating for years for freedom for their gender are making progress. Since the summer of 2018, women can take to the road, something they were not able to do for 62 years.
  5. Zahra’ Langhi
    The Lybian Women’s Platform for Peace (LWPP) is an organization that puts pressure on the government to give opportunities to women to uphold sociopolitical places within government and society. Zahra’ Langhi is a co-founder and feminist activist who started speaking out in 2011 when Muammar Gaddafi’s reign ended after decades of abusing his power over the country. The leading effects after the uprising resulted in 35 women joining together to form LWPP. The state of Libya is dangerous and unbalanced, especially for women advocating to eliminate corruption in politics. Langhi never gave up her voice and continues to speak for compassion and understanding to infiltrate her country. “We need to start acting as agents of compassion and mercy. We need to develop a feminine discourse that not only honors but also implements mercy instead of revenge, collaboration instead of competition, inclusion instead of exclusion,” Langhi said.

These five women activists in developing countries spread their knowledge to their fellow neighbors and friends. From halfway across the globe, people Western countries can stand next to these women activists in developing countries and let them know they have support.

Hannah Vaughn
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Gender Inequality
In our patriarchal society, many underserve and underappreciate women in several aspects of life. Gender inequality ranges from the gender-pay gap to genital mutilation, transcending geographical and cultural differences. These 10 facts about gender inequality display the overarching themes of inequalities that women face and cope with around the world.

10 Facts About Gender Inequality

  1. Lack of Basic Education: In 2014, 263 million children were not in school. At the primary level, 31 million girls did not attend school compared to 29 million boys. Poverty and family income are often driving factors in whether or not girls have the opportunity to attend school. Other factors such as violence, living in remote, inaccessible areas and child marriages can also heavily impact female retention in schools. Increasing female education level is imperative to the positive growth and development of an individual, a family and a country.
  2. The Prominence of Child Marriages: As of 2014, 700 million girls are coerced into marriage before the age of 18. If people force girls into marriage at an early age, they are more likely to drop out of school as well as get pregnant early, which can contribute to physical and mental health hazards. Girls Not Brides is an organization committed to resolving child marriages around the world by keeping governments accountable. It also implements new policies and programs and increases the visibility of the issue.
  3. Increased Pregnancy Complications: Pregnancy and childbirth complications increase as income decreases. Stressors such as financial instability or crowded, polluted living spaces make infant mortality two-thirds higher compared to a higher income area. In addition to infant mortality, half a million women and girls die from child deliveries and complications each year.
  4. Battling Menstruation Stigma: Menstruation is a hormone-based process that signals female fertility. However, in countries such as Venezuela and rural Ghana, communities ostracize girls and women during menstruation. In Venezuela, communities force menstruating women to sleep in huts and in Ghana, communities forbid women from making contact with men. Furthermore, in underprivileged areas, menstruating women often do not have access to sanitary napkins which can cause infections. However, Freedom4Girls, a charity dedicated to removing the stigma around menstruation, is taking action by providing environmentally-friendly, reusable hygiene products to women in poverty.
  5. Culture of Domestic Violence: Domestic violence occurs due to unequal power dynamics within a partnership with approximately 85 percent of domestic violence victims as women. The practice of a patriarchal culture empowers abuse and violence against women, leaving low-income women at a higher risk of staying in violent relationships.
  6. Underreporting of Sexual Assault and Rape: Rape is highly underreported and repeatedly under-prosecuted with one in five women experiencing unwanted sexual contact in their lives. The underreporting of these crimes is frequently the result of fear related to public shaming, officials doubting their situations and further harm from the perpetrator. Women who experienced rape may also experience short-term or long-term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, therefore, putting mental health at risk. Victims of rape or sexual assault may resort to RAINN, an organization committed to improving the criminal justice system for sexual assault cases, increasing visibility for sexual violence and providing victim-focused services.
  7. The Dominance of Females in Human Trafficking: Human trafficking encompasses the enslaving of humans into unwanted labor or sexual activity. In 2014, 80 percent of enslaved humans brought across international borders were women, funding a multi-billion dollar industry and remaining as one of the largest illicit crime operations. Because of the pervasiveness of human trafficking, a multitude of organizations around the world are working to end this issue including the Polaris Project in the United States, Prajwala in India and COSA in Thailand.
  8. Existence of Female Genital Mutilation: Cultures perform female genital mutilation due to a series of cultural ideals where the female body must remain pure and clean. For example, some cultures believe that female genital mutilation will ensure virginity and fidelity by removing the “unnecessary” areas that promote pleasure. As many as 200 million girls have undergone the practice in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. 28 Too Many works to terminate these practices in the countries of Africa through extensive global data research, policy changes and community engagement.
  9. Marginal Female Leadership Representation: In more privileged countries, the number of females in leadership roles is dramatically lower than male counterparts considering the same level of education. Women account for 52.5 percent of the college-educated workforce with 57 percent of undergraduate degrees and 59 percent of master degrees. For example, in the financial industry, 61 percent of accounts and auditors are women, however, only 12.5 percent of chief financial officers in Fortune 500 companies are women.
  10. Unequal Economic Participation: Society has historically ingrained the idea of unequal economic participation and the entire world demonstrates this. Multiple countries possess laws to make it difficult or impossible for women to own land. Even though females represent half of the world’s population, less than 20 percent of the land is owned by women. Owning land is important for female economic development such as improved access to loans as well as educational development. Landesa Center for Women’s Land Rights recognizes the benefits of land ownership and is devoted to reforming laws and policies and developing programs to include women’s land rights.

These 10 facts about gender inequality demonstrate how one aspect of female suppression could lead to another. For example, girls who do not have the privilege of receiving a basic education could become vulnerable to teenage pregnancies or child marriages, which could further lead to pregnancy complications and compromised wellbeing. Women constantly face unjust and unequal circumstances that suppress rights to their own bodies, property or financial stability. Although many organizations such as Girls Not Brides, Freedom4Girls and Polaris Project have successfully come together in an effort to counteract multiple harmful practices and beliefs, it is important to recognize inequalities in everyday life and break the cycle of female suppression.

– Angela Dong
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriages in AfghanistanAfghanistan is often ranked as the world’s most dangerous country for women. Young girls are so often robbed of their childhoods by means of widespread violations of their human rights. Poverty, limited access to education and healthcare, little if any support for victims of domestic violence, high birth rates and draconian traditions regarding the role of women leave girls highly vulnerable to abuse.

Though the legal age of marriage is 16 years for women and 18 years for men, as outlined by the Afghan Civil Code, 33 percent of girls are married by the age of 18, the internationally recommended standard legal age for marriage. These marriages essentially treat girls as property in order to strengthen ties between rival families and tribes or to settle debts and disputes. Poor families often sell their daughters for large sums of money to wealthy families and much older men.

Girls who marry in childhood have little power in their household, a greater likelihood of dropping out of school and being illiterate, lower labor force participation and earnings and less control over household assets. Thus, girls’ potential for societal contribution in Afghanistan is immediately stunted by being forced into child marriage.

Child brides, as well as their children, will likely experience a lower standard of health. Adolescent mothers also have a significantly higher risk of maternal mortality and morbidity than women just a few years older than them. These deficits, which affect not only the individuals involved in child marriages in Afghanistan but also the entire country, have not gone unnoticed.

Girls Not Brides is a global partnership committed to helping girls fulfill their potentials by putting an end to child marriage. By emphasizing accountability on behalf of governments and other participants to uphold, respect and protect the rights of girls, the organization pressures countries like Afghanistan to address the issue of child marriage.

In April 2017, the Afghan government showed its support for ending child marriage in Afghanistan by launching a National Action Plan to Eliminate Early and Child Marriage. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ministry of Information and Culture, with support from UNFPA Afghanistan, the Canadian government and a range of other activists, worked together to develop the declaration. This plan highlights two techniques: initiatives designed to prevent early and childhood marriages and improving laws and services in support of people at risk of early and child marriage.

However, orchestrating a National Action Plan is just the beginning; the plan must be implemented in order to make a difference. Organizations such as Girls Not Brides pledge to ensure that governments take action to protect their girls from underage and unlawful marriage. Initiatives with the goal of putting an end to child marriage in Afghanistan will only succeed with the support of such associations.

Richa Bijlani

Photo: Flickr

The Link Between Education and Ending Child MarriageAccording to the organization Girls Not Brides, child marriage is “any formal marriage or informal union where one or both of the parties are under 18 years of age.” The largest number of child marriages take place in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Over 50 percent of girls living in Bangladesh, Niger, Mozambique and Mali are married before they turn 18.

Child marriage violates several international human rights treaties including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. All of these treaties require that marriage be consensual between both parties and that both parties be legal adults (over the age of 18.)

Beyond violating human rights treaties, child marriage has many negative consequences for the participants. While boys are affected negatively by child marriage as well, the burden is felt more by girls and there is more data on its effects on girls. Child marriage leads to higher incidences of domestic violence, marital rape, medical complications due to pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. It is also difficult for girls who marry young to find work.

So, is there a silver bullet? Is there an easy way to reduce the number of girls who are forced to marry young? No – unfortunately things are rarely that simple. However, education is the most useful tool we have.

What is the link between education and ending child marriage?

There is undoubtedly a link between education and ending child marriage, but it is complex. On the one hand, higher educational attainment is associated with fewer child marriages and lower educational attainment is associated with more child marriages. But child marriage also obstructs educational attainment; therefore, the cause and effect are not clear. “Leaving school early both contributes to, and results from, marrying young.”

So, what do we know?

We know that girls are less likely to marry as children the higher if they obtain a higher level of education. We also know that countries with higher rates of child marriage have proportionally lower rates of school enrollment for girls. For example, in Niger – where there is the greatest disparity – 76 percent of girls are married before 18 and only 10 percent of girls are enrolled in secondary school. While primary school is important and should be accessible for all, secondary school attainment is a more reliable measure.

Why does child marriage still happen?

Poverty is a leading cause of child marriage. Families may want their daughters to marry so they have fewer mouths to feed, so they no longer have to pay their school fees or so that they receive the dowry – typically money or livestock – in exchange for their permission to marry.

Inaccessible education also leads to higher incidences of child marriage. Especially in rural areas, schools can be too far away to reach. Even when girls do make it to school, teacher absenteeism is common in underfunded rural schools and the quality of the education itself may be lacking due to poor teacher training and a lack of supplies and textbooks.

Environmental factors can also affect the rate of child marriage. Natural disasters may spur families to marry off their daughters, to protect them or to receive the dowry to help them rebuild.

What can be done?

Many organizations are working to eradicate child marriage through several different approaches. Girls Not Brides has a theory of change centered around four areas: empowering girls, mobilizing communities, providing services and implementing policies. This approach is rather comprehensive. Other organizations may focus on just one facet – improving access to quality education, making girls aware of their human rights or providing scholarships for school attendance.

Solutions should be oriented around requiring consent of both parties and requiring proof of age before a marriage ceremony. Education and ending child marriage may be intrinsically linked, but change will be most effective if the girls themselves are empowered to fulfill their own personal and professional aspirations and become economically independent.

Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in Afghanistan
Child marriage in Afghanistan is so common that over 30% of all girls are married before the age of 18. This disturbing figure bears more than a cursory glance. Aside from causing immense emotional and physical duress for child brides, the practice also massively hinders the girls’ ability to access education.

The phenomenon of child marriage in Afghanistan is not unique to the country, nor even to South Asia. In fact, the country with the highest prevalence of child brides is Niger, with 76% of girls married by the age of 18. In South Asia, the largest absolute number of child brides is in India — where 12 million children were married before the age of 10.

These figures speak to the fact that child marriage is not a phenomenon of any one race or religion. It has developed independently around the world, often for financial benefit or social mobility. However, in all cases, the effects on young girls have been devastating.

In Afghanistan, the relationship between the occurrence of child marriage and lack of education for females is chilling. Only 14% of girls are literate and only 36 percent are receiving an education. Naturally, these figures cannot be a result of child marriage in Afghanistan alone.

Factors Leading to Child Marriage in Afghanistan

Other factors created by a highly patriarchal society must be taken into consideration. Nevertheless, marrying off girls at a young age has an undeniable influence on their education.

The clearest way that child marriage affects female education is by causing girls to drop out of school in preparation for marriage or pregnancy.

This choice reflects a larger mentality where education for females is considered less valuable than marriage — a far more lucrative venture for families that consider their daughters to be liabilities. Once the girl is married, it can be hard for her to return to school, since she now has a family that takes up most of her time.

Girls Not Brides, an organization focused on ending child marriage states that girls with no education are three times as likely to marry by 18 as those with secondary or higher education.

In addition, over 60 percent of women ages 20-24 with no education were married before 18. Clearly, education is both a catalyst for and a consequence of lowered rates of child marriage.

Educating girls at the secondary school level equips them with the ability to recognize when and whom they want to marry. It also ensures that they have skills that make them self-reliant financially and emotionally.

The mere practice of being in school also furthers the perception that girls are still too young to be married and must invest their time in learning instead of child rearing.

Child marriage in Afghanistan is a direct result of poverty, strong patriarchal values, lack of access to education and cultural practices. All of these factors could be prevented by increasing female participation in schooling, as not only would girls be immediately affected; their qualifications would also allow them to later have a voice in decision making.

Mallika Khanna

Photo: Flickr