Here’s How You Can Help Bring Back Our Girls

Via Catapult.
Catapult Bring Back our Girls photo

Photo via Catapult

The abduction of more than 275 school girls is just the latest outrageous example of girls being victimized simply because they are girls, and specifically, girls trying to go to school.Join Girl Rising and Catapult in supporting girls’ education in Nigeria and around the world. Take action:

  • Donate to the Bring Back Our Girls Emergency Project on Catapult. 100% of donations go to organizations focused on girls’ education programming and advocacy in Nigeria and other areas where support for girls’ education is urgently needed.
  • Text BRINGBACK to 50555 to give $10 in support of Bring Back Our Girls (terms).
  • Spread the news: join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter by using#BringBackOurGirls
Every girl has the right to go to school without fearing for her life.  We know that girls’ education is one of the best investments the world can make in building healthy, prosperous societies. As activists and global leaders work together to rescue the girls who were kidnapped, help us bring awareness and donations to organizations that educate and empower girls in the region.


The Catapult Team



Bring Back Our Girls

It’s been three weeks since armed attackers stormed a school dormitory in Chibok, northern Nigeria and abducted nearly 300 girls—most of whom have not been seen since and are feared to have been sold into sexual slavery in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad.

Just yesterday, it was reported that eight more girls between the ages of 12 and 15 were abducted from Warabe in north eastern Nigeria.

In a video message obtained Monday, the Islamist militant group Boko Haram is said to have officially claimed responsibility, stating: “Western education should end. Girls, you should go and get married…I will sell them in the market.” 

Bring back our girls campaign

Quote by Equality Now

For weeks, activists within Nigeria and around the world have taken to the streets and social media to protest the Nigerian government’s sorely lacking efforts to locate the girls and prosecute their abductors, and the slow response of mainstream media to cover the situation. It was only last Sunday, after weeks of silence, that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan publicly pledged to find the girls (on Friday he met with advisors to create a “fact-finding committee”). Shortly after, however, it was also reported that the First Lady of Nigeria, Patience Johnathan, ordered the arrest of protest leaders calling for the return of the girls. 

Equality Now is actively working with our Nigerian partners, Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) and Alliance for Africa (AFA), on legal strategies to use and are contacting Nigerian and Cameroon embassies to find out exactly what their countries are doing on this issue. WRAPA, AFA and other organizations are extremely concerned that these abductions will continue until Nigeria prioritizes and takes action to protect the safety and rights of girls and women who are increasingly vulnerable in conflict regions.

Gender-based violence in Nigeria is on the rise and similar abductions have occurred in the past. Starting today, Nigeria is hosting the World Economic Forum in Africa conference and we need your help to keep up the pressure on the Nigerian government to take immediate action to locate and rescue the missing schoolgirls, prosecute those responsible for their abduction and exploitation, and to take measures to protect the safety and human rights of girls throughout the country.

Here are three steps you can take today in the campaign to #BringBackOurGirls:

1. Post daily on your social media networks to keep up the pressure using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Social media has been leading the charge to focus the world’s attention on the plight of the schoolgirls, directly leading to increased mainstream press coverage and responses from government officials and international organizations around the world. Keep up on breaking news & developments on Twitter (follow @equalitynow and the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls) and Facebook ( Please retweet, share, and like our posts to spread the word & keep up the pressure on decision makers! You can start by clicking on the image at the top of this email & sharing it on Facebook. You can also click HERE to view this email in a web browser & share the link with your contacts and on social media. 

2. Contact representatives in your government and ask them to put pressure on the Nigerian government to take immediate action to rescue the girls, prosecute those who are responsible and provide support services for the girls once they are rescued.

3. Equality Now will be releasing an Action soon targeting officials we feel have the authority and ability to rescue the girls. As soon as it hits your inbox or you see it on our Twitter or Facebook pages, sign it! In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, please sign Nigerian student Ify E.’s petition calling on world leaders to support all efforts to ensure the girls’ safe return. 

Together we can #BringBackOurGirls. 

In solidarity,
Yasmeen Hassan & Faiza Jama Mohamed
Global Director   |  Nairobi Office Director


So-Called Reasons for Child Marriage

Story by AYA BATRAWY Associated Press

Read the full story here.

So-called reasons for child marriage

In some countries, families encourage early marriage to protect young girls from premarital sex and to uphold a family’s honor, according to the report.

In one case, a young girl named Mariam was born in France to parents from Mali. She had never been to Mali until her father sent her at age 14 and her sister at 16 to a village while they were on vacation from school.

When they arrived, their father took their passports, and Mariam was told to marry her father’s cousin. Her sister was to marry the local imam, or preacher. Mariam eventually escaped with the help of a policeman she met during a visit to the village market, but her sister remains in Mali, the report said.

Sins of a father

In another case in Afghanistan, a 3-year-old girl’s father killed a man. To avoid prison, he handed his daughter over to the victim’s family, which regularly beat her and forced her to do household chores. At 10 she was raped by an older man in the family, and that same year she was married to a teenager from the family.

Her husband divorced her when she was 12and she was forced to marry the uncle who had raped her. It was not until she managed to run away that police helped her find shelter with a women’s organization. The uncle was arrested and is serving a 13-year sentence for rape, Equality Now said. Continue reading…

Early Marriage: Selling the Daughters

Photo by AWWP

Photo by AWWP

This story was republished from Afghan Women’s Writing Project

When I think of early marriage—forced marriage—I become mad and helpless. I have no tolerance for it. I want to shout out loud, so that all creatures of God could hear me.

Early marriages are harmful to girls because they are still children and don’t understand what is going on in the world. A girl of twelve to eighteen is not a grown person. She is not ready to begin a new life. Her body is not ready, not according to science, psychology, knowledge, or logic. A child doesn’t have sexual interests. Continue reading

International Day of the Girl and Child Marriage

On 11 October, the international community will celebrate Day of the Girl Child, a day dedicated to bringing to light the issues that matter to girls around the world.

It is a day to raise our voice and call for action on the practices that are holding girls back. Join us in calling for an end to child marriage!

Here’s why. Continue reading

Swara Girls Punished for Crimes They Did Not Commit

Despite being illegal, the custom of forcibly marrying girls off to resolve family and tribal disputes happens on an alarming scale across all provinces of Pakistan. This custom is called swara.

Old muslim men sit around deciding a girls future

Jirgas Photo by

Mahnun’s story.

Mahnun was 8 when a jirga decided she should be given as a swara; her older sister, then 10, had already been promised to a cousin.

The stories are disturbingly repetitive: a land dispute, yet another crime, a family seeking revenge, another men-only jirga of powerful local leaders, and an innocent girl’s future taken from her.

Mahnun’s case was unusual because her father, both the perpetrator of the crime and a caring parent, would not accept the sentence.

He pleaded with the jirga, offering to give all he owned in exchange for his daughter. Her mother vowed she would not live to see her little girl be taken away by a stranger. “They can behead me, but they won’t take my daughter. I won’t let them to take my daughter,” she screamed when she heard the news. But the offended family said they would only accept the girl, so the jirga consented, recounted Mahnun’s mother.

With no other option available to them, Mahnun’s family gathered up some clothes, whatever utensils they could carry, and escaped in the darkness. They left everything else behind and went into hiding.

The four now live in a single shabby room of a dilapidated compound that they share with other families. They have no electricity. The toilet is a walled-off hole in the ground outside; a few buckets are used to bring water for bathing. Cooking is done in the single pan they brought from home, placed over wood in the courtyard.

Mahnun’s father found a temporary job as a driver, but his contract came to an end and now he is unemployed. “We are borrowing money from others so we can feed the children. We have no choice,” he says. “Nothing matters more to us than our two girls and their lives.”

One window of the room frames the snow-covered mountains in the distance; in the other corner rest heavy blankets, gifts from compassionate neighbors. But Mahnun’s family is still wary of those around them: “In this new village we haven’t told anyone that she is a swara. If people know about this they won’t leave us here alive,” says Mahnun’s mother. Disobeying a jirga’s decision and escaping would be considered an act of betrayal for which the family would not be forgiven.

“Each and every day we live in fear. What if they find us?” says Mahnun’s mother. She accompanies both daughters to school and waits there until they leave. At age 10, Mahnun is in seventh grade and dreams of becoming a judge. “I will ban the custom of swara, and I will put men who do it in jail,” she says hopefully.

“She is getting naughty because she knows she is loved so much,” her father explains, giving Mahnun a warm smile.

Rafaqat’s story.

Rafaqat, a tiny woman with sun-cracked skin, has dedicated her life to eliminating swara in the area. “I’m an old lady. If they kill me, so what? I’ll die eventually,” she says, laughing loudly.

In 1998, Rafaqat’s teenage nephew fell for a girl already promised to somebody else. He knew his love was prohibited, so he ran away with the girl. To compensate the family’s loss, the jirga decided the boy’s younger sister, Rafaqat’s niece, should be given away as a swara. She was 11.

Rafaqat never saw her again. She managed to stay informed about the niece’s movements, so she knew when the girl became pregnant. When the time came, her new family refused to take her to the hospital.

At age 14, the swara girl gave birth to a son, but died in labor. “They never came to her funeral. They never paid condolences to our family,” Rafaqat tells me. “All they said was: We had our badal [revenge].”

Flaws in Pakistan’s judicial system also lead residents to rely on the jirgas. “Traditional courts in Pakistan have very bad records. There are unsolved cases going back more than 30 years, still in process, and the whole justice system is seen as highly corrupt,” says Khaliq. “It is also very expensive. Courts charge for each and every service, so the poor can’t afford it, whereas the Islamic courts [jirgas] are free and speedy.”

Story by Adriana Carranca.  Follow her on Twitter: @AdrianaCarranca.

Related articles on Plain Talk

Every Three Seconds a Girl Is Traded As a Swara

Swara FeatureSwara is a child marriage custom in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This custom is tied to blood feuds among the different tribes and clans where the young girls are forcibly married to the members of different clans in order to resolve the feuds. It is most common among Pashtuns. – Wikipedia.

10-Year-Old Girl Saved from Marriage

Afghan girl

HERAT, Afghanistan, 30 July 2013 – When Farzana* was 10 years old, her father, a farmer and laborer in a small village in western Afghanistan, arranged for her to marry a man 40 years her senior. The groom, already married and the father of six children – most of them older than Farzana – paid $9,000 to Farzana’s father in return for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Mass Child Marriages In India Despite State Law

Mass child marriage ceremony

Photo by

On March 15, in the Indian state of Rajasthan, a 19-year-old male committed suicide by jumping in front of a train. He left a suicide note saying that his parents married him off as a child and that he could no longer take care of his wife. He wished to further his studies but his parents did not listen.  In his letter he pleaded that the government take urgent steps to end child marriage so that others’ lives will not be ruined.

10-Year-Old Girl Saved from Marriage

Afghan girl

HERAT, Afghanistan, 30 July 2013 – When Farzana* was 10 years old, her father, a farmer and laborer in a small village in western Afghanistan, arranged for her to marry a man 40 years her senior. The groom, already married and the father of six children – most of them older than Farzana – paid $9,000 to Farzana’s father in return for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

The 10-year-old begged her father to call off the marriage, even promising to eat less so that she would not be a burden on her family. Her father remained unmoved, despite her protestations.

“I was crying very hard and telling my parents that I don’t want to go through with this,” recalls Farzana, now age 12.

Her only support was her mother, Habiba, who herself was married at a very early age and knew the complications and difficulties of early marriage. Farzana’s little brothers rallied around her as well, but to no avail. The marriage was fixed and the dates set.

“I would have missed my sister a lot – she provides a lot of support for my family, and the groom was too old,” says Yahya, Farzana’s little brother

Difficult to refuse

Farzana belongs to a poor family in a village in western Afghanistan. With three other children and an income of less than $30 a month, Farzana’s father, Ghulam, could barely make ends meet. An offer to marry off his daughter for the princely amount of $9,000 was too difficult to refuse.

“We had a lot of problems; we are so poor and have nothing. If we didn’t have these problems, I wouldn’t have agreed to this marriage,” the father explains.

As the wedding date neared, Farzana’s mother Habiba realized that her husband was unrelenting and decided to take action. She alerted members of the Child Protection Action Network (CPAN), a grassroots network supported by UNICEF that works for the protection of children across Afghanistan, with associates from government, NGOs, youth representatives and provincial councils.

Poverty and low awareness

CPAN members in her village took it upon themselves to ensure that the girl would not marry at such a young age. A local religious leader and member of CPAN, Sultan Mohammad Yusufzai, led the counseling sessions between Farzana’s father and the groom-to-be.

“I told them that Islam prohibits child marriage. Even if a boy and girl are engaged, they cannot live together until the girl has matured. Islam does not permit such marriages until the bride and groom are grown up,” he says. “One of the main reasons for child marriage is poverty, and that forces parents to agree to early marriage. The second reason is low awareness among families about Islamic principles and human rights.”

It took three months of talks and the return of money the groom paid to the father before the two men agreed to cancel the marriage – just 10 days before the wedding.

The decision came as a great relief for Farzana, her mother and siblings.

Farzana managed to escape this terrible arrangement, but many like her are not so fortunate. Child marriage is widespread in Afghanistan, with almost one in five women getting married before age 15. Nearly 46 per cent are married by the time they are 18.

Community involvement

It’s a practice that UNICEF believes can only change with the involvement of the entire community.

“If violence against children remains widespread and socially accepted, most children won’t complain about it, most adults won’t report it, and professionals might hesitate to act upon it,” says Micaela Pasini, UNICEF Afghanistan’s Chief of Child Protection. “So we work with communities to help them to understand and identify how to better protect their children from violence.”

Still living in the safe confines of her home, Farzana is moving on. The ordeal of nearly marrying while still a child is finally behind her. The 12-year-old now goes to school regularly and finds comfort in the presence of religious leader Imam Mohammad Yusufzai and his team from the CPAN.

*Names of children have been changed.

This story was originally published by UNICEF – Afghanistan

Similar stories on Plain Talk

Young Reporters Fight Against Child Marriage

Fazal Haque, 15, student at Anchalik High School of Simina village in Kamrup district of Assam, and nine other boys and girls keep themselves busy by looking out for families who are marrying off their under-age daughters and intervene.

Young reporters fight against child marriage

Photo by

Daughter of a Child Bride Speaks Out.

Sami Ahmed is a 21-year-old student, scriptwriter and activist. She is also the daughter of a child bride. Her mother, Saira was 13 or 14 years old when her parents began the search for an “appropriate” groom for her in Bangladesh. Saira’s parents chose a 26-year-old British-Bangladeshi stranger from England as the best choice for their daughter.

Sami and her mom.

Sami and her mom.

Child Marriage, Modern Day Slavery

In Niger and the neighboring Nigeria, a man is legally allowed to have as many as four wives. However he can take a fifth or sixth ‘wife’ unofficially. ‘Fifth wives’ or wahaya are purchased either from parents or from their Tuareg masters. No ceremony is performed, just trade. Usually the girls are between the ages of 7 to 12; the younger the girl the higher the price.

Heavy brass ankle bracelet forced to be worn by a Wahaya

Heavy brass ankle bracelet forced to be worn by a Wahaya

Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school. Let’s fix that.

Today, as children all over the US head back to school, 10.5 million children in Nigeria will not go to school.  In fact, Nigeria has the highest out-of-school population in the world.   And increasing levels of violence have targeted children for wanting to go to school and learn.  Please sign our petition below showing our support for President Jonathan’s commitment to education, and urging immediate action so that all children and youth have the opportunity to learn and thrive in society.

Dear President Jonathan,

Within the last few weeks, school children and teachers have been gunned down and others firebombed and burned to death – simply for wanting to go to school.

We stand united with UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, and teenage education campaigner, Malala Yousafzai, in supporting the call for safe schools for the 10.5 million out-of-school children in the country.

With the highest out-of-school population in the world, we ask the government, with the support of the international community, to deliver education so these children can go to school. We ask that conditional cash transfer programs be implemented at the state level for families so that 900,000 girls can enrol into school now. We also request that the state governors and their ministers draw up plans for universal education, and leading up to the next budget cycle, the national government develop financial incentives for state level results to ensure every child goes to school by 2015.

Every Nigerian child deserves the chance to go to school and learn.

Click here to sign the petition. Thank you for supporting this cause with me. Every signature really does make a difference!

Related articles on Plain Talk

1000-Day Countdown to Global Education

The urgency of the 1,000-day countdown is doing exactly what we hoped: pressuring world leaders and businesses to sit up, take notice, and — most importantly — take action.







Militants Massacre 14 Female Students On School Bus

Over the weekend, 14 young female students were massacred as a bus taking them home from university in Quetta, in western Pakistan, was blown up by extremist militants — and we were once again reminded of the continued need to stand behind Malala and her cause.


Afghan Girl Tortured by In-laws for Resisting Prostitution


Photo courtesy Guardian UK

Sahar Gul is a 15-year-old girl who was brutally beaten, burned, cut, starved, enslaved, and tortured by her in-laws for months in the basement of their home. The perpetrators of these heinous acts needs to be brought to justice not only for Sahar Gul, but also for other Afghans who are subjected to brutal violence.

A UN report issued in November found that a 2009 law meant to protect Afghan women from a host of abusive practices, including rape, forced marriage and the trading of women to settle disputes, was being undermined by sporadic enforcement.

The Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women was passed in August 2009 and had raised hopes among women’s rights activists that Afghan women would get to fight back against abuses that had been ignored under Taliban rule. The law criminalised many abuses for the first time, including domestic violence, child marriage, driving a woman to resort to suicide, as well as the buying and selling of women.

Yet the report found only a small percentage of reported crimes against women were pursued by the Afghan government.

Between March 2010 and March 2011, prosecutors opened 594 investigations into crimes under the law – only 26% of the 2,299 incidents registered by the Afghan human rights commission, the UN report said. Prosecutors filed indictments in only 155 cases, or 7% of the total number of crimes reported.

Here’s what you can do.

Please join me in signing this petition to President Karzai and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for immediate action. This petition is a resounding plea from concerned persons around the world seeking justice on behalf of fifteen-year-old Sahar Gul who was brutally tortured and mutilated by her Afghan in-laws.

Let’s get some signatures on this petition. Sign the petition here 

To read more about this story please visit The Guardian UK.

Egyptian TV Series Spotlights Child Marriage

Republished from

The new Egyptian television series “Al-Qasirat” (Minors) is taking a hard look at the problems of child marriage, which is still prevalent in parts of Egypt and a number of Arab countries.

Young child bride

Photo courtesy Al-Qasirat media office

The MBC series, which began at the start of Ramadan, includes some realistic and shocking scenes, said Cairo University psychology professor and family relations consultant Waliyuddine Mukhtar.

It condemns the “reactionary ideas prevalent in many societies that treat females as mere commodities to be bought and sold”, he told Al-Shorfa.

The practice of underage marriage is widespread in Upper Egypt and in other parts of the country, he said.

In some cases, young girls are temporarily married to wealthy older men or foreigners for a designated period of time, particularly during the summer vacation.


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) defines child marriage as a formal marriage or informal union that takes place before the age of 18. According to a 2010 UNICEF report, 18% of the female population in the Middle East and Africa are married before this age.

Underage marriage has spread “under the guise of religion” in Yemen, SaudiArabia, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where it is misrepresented as an application of sharia, Mukhtar said.

Poverty and illiteracy also contribute significantly to its spread, he said.

Egypt’s Ministry of Family and Population put the number of underage marriage cases in 2011 at 150,000, or 11% of all marriages in Egypt that year, Mukhtar said.

“Al-Qasirat” star Salah al-Saadani told the Middle East News Agency that the series’ boldness in confronting the issue compelled him to accept the role, though he knew some might find its scenes and events shocking.

What most interested him was the realistic portrayal of the issue, he said, explaining that the series is set in an Egyptian village where a wealthy man exploits poor families in order to marry their daughters.


“Underage marriage is illegal and a crime against humanity that is being committed in the name of sharia,” said Al-Azhar University sharia and law professor Sheikh Nayef Abd Rabbu, who serves as an advisor at the Ministry of Social Solidarity.

“Egyptian law, which stems from sharia, prohibits the marriage of girls under the age of 18,” he said.

There is a common belief that Islam legalises child marriage, though this is an explicit distortion of religious texts and the hadith, as it is actually old customs and traditions that drive these marriages, Abd Rabbu said.

“Islam stipulates safeguarding the rights of women in marriage,” he said. “In the case of minors, their rights in marriage are slim to non-existent. Sharia legislators agree that a marriage must be entered into with an intention of continuance, and that it not be a temporary contract, as it is in many of these cases.”

Under Egyptian law, which prohibits exploiting children in any form, forcing a girl into marriage is a punishable offense, said Fayez Shukr of the Egyptian Ministry of Justice’s department of legislative studies and research.

Additionally, he told Al-Shorfa, under a 2008 child law, “no marriage contract shall be authenticated if either party has yet to attain the full age of 18 years”.


Dr. Fahim Farhan, a gynaecologist and obstetrician, said he follows the television series with interest.

It is one of the “most important works shedding light on this blight in Arab societies, and in Egypt in particular”, he said.

Underage marriage exposes girls to numerous health and psychological problems, including infertility, miscarriage, preeclampsia, anaemia and premature childbirth, he said, noting that there is a rising incidence of death among these girls and their babies.

“Al-Qasirat” is directed by Magdi Abu Emera, written by Samah el-Hariri and stars al-Saadani, Dalia al-Buhairi, Yasser Galal, Menna Arafa, Malak Ahmed Zaher and May al-Gheiti.

Related articles on Plain Talk

Bangladesh Practice Child Marriage Despite Law

Excerpt Feature

Mass Child Marriage Continue in India

Mass Child marriage ceremony

Mass child marriage ceremony photo by

Every Three Seconds A Girl Is Traded

Psychiatrist from Lahore re Swara effects