Imagine being prepared to marry a man the age of your father or older, losing your childhood, separated from your family, friends, and becoming a mother. The thought of these mental pictures may make an individual shudder. However, there are many girls around the world who are facing the harsh reality of entering marriage, often by force, at a young age. Child marriage is unequivocally a traumatic experience.
Most child marriages occur in marginalized communities in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where this practice is common. Furthermore, girls who have little or no education are up to six times more likely to be married as children than girls who have secondary schooling. Moreover, subordinate to their husbands and families, married girls are more vulnerable to domestic violence and not in a position to make decisions about safe sex and family planning – which puts them at high risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and of pregnancy and childbearing before their bodies are fully mature. Lastly, married girls are more likely to suffer from being isolated from peers and family than girls unmarried (UNICEF 2016).
Fortunately, there are major efforts being made to end child marriage globally. The End Child Marriage Now campaign was launched by the Chairperson of the African Union H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in 2014. Currently, there are nineteen African countries committed to ending child marriage on a national level and more intend to join. Beyond the African continent, there are various non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and foundations also striving to end child marriage in many countries.
“Educate a girl, empower a nation.” A profound quote that echoes around the world. A quote that will change a young girl’s life. A quote that exudes confidence for girls anxious to fulfill their dreams. A quote that leaves a girl hopeless if not acted upon by those elected to protect her. The tenacious efforts of those joined in this cause to globally end child marriage are phenomenal. Therefore, there are many ways to help end the child marriage cycle. Providing social awareness through social media, offering financial support to an NGO or becoming a member of a global partnership are just a few ways to get involved.
References: United Nations Children’s Fund, The State of the World’s Children 2016: A fair chance for every child, UNICEF, New York, June 2016. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/publications/index_91711.html
End Child Marriage Now, Retrieved from http://endchildmarriagenow.org/
Photo Credit: Mariamichelle, Pixabay, License: CC Public Domain
Aneeta Pearson, MSW, MS
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