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.

 

Love,
The Catapult Team

 

 

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Child Marriage Awareness in Napal

Republished from MyRepublica.com. Story by Ritesh Tripathi.

Teachers express worry about the dropout rates of the girls, who are married off at 10-years-old or under. These girls are at the mercy of their in-laws, stripped of all their freedom and rights, the young girls get accustomed to a life in the shadows.

“However, this long held tradition is losing its grip over Madhesi society, and there have been signs of change,” states Akshchhaya Chaudhari, principal at Nepal Rastriya Higher Secondary School at Dumarwana village in Bara district.

“The movement against child marriage is sweeping through the villages in Tarai. The messages carried by songs, public speeches and drama have directly hit the heart and minds of the people forcing them to look at the issue differently,” he said. Continue reading…

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 MapsofIndia.com

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

Sahar-Gul-was-rescued-by--007

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.

Bangladesh Continue to Practice Child Marriage Despite Laws

Bangladesh outlawed child marriage in 1929. Yet, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), sixty-six percent of girls in Bangladesh are married before they reach the age of eighteen.

The practice of child marriage is rooted in social tradition and economic need, but it has adverse effects on the health and education of girls. According to a report by the International Center for Research on Women, child brides are prone to suffer domestic violence and abandon school, and as a result of early pregnancy are susceptible to health complications.

The Law

When the Bangladesh government developed legislation that led to the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, it considered various socio-cultural factors—such as poverty and societal values—that drive parents to marry off their young daughters.

Excerpt FeatureThe law criminalizes marriages when either party is a minor, classified as girls under eighteen and boys under twenty-one, and penalizes those who permit or aid such a marriage, including parents. Punishment for the crimes can be a fine and up to one month imprisonment.

Bangladesh’s laws on the issue are encompassed by its obligations, including The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which the State ratified in 1984 and prohibits child marriage in Article 16(2).

In 1998, Bangladesh acceded to the Convention on Consent to Marriage, which calls for the “full and free consent” of both parties in all legally binding marriages in Article 1. Article 2 requires states to set a minimum age for marriage. However, Bangladesh reserved its right to apply Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention concerning the issue of child marriage “in accordance with the Personal Laws of different religious communities of the country.” Allowing personal laws of religious communities to supersede international law sustains the practice of child marriage in Bangladesh.

The Law vs Cultural Influences

Adherence to these principles can be complicated in Bangladesh, where many villagers believe that marriage protects a girl’s chastity and is a divine command from God.

As explained by Farah D. Chowdhury, a political science professor in Bangladesh, in a 2004 article in the International Journal of Social Welfare, all females are obligated to become wives and raise a family and the sooner they are married, the sooner the obligation is fulfilled.

Additionally, the marriage of young, submissive, and obedient girls maintains the status quo of a patriarchal society. The older an unmarried girl becomes, the more her family will be shamed in the community.

Economic Advantage of Child Marriage

Beyond the religious and cultural influences, there is an economic advantage to marrying off girls at an early age. Girls are often considered a burden to families because of their financial dependence. Once a girl has been married, her husband and his family must provide for her, thus liberating her parents of their financial duty. When a family is impoverished, there is consequently a greater desire to marry off daughters at a younger age. Further, the parents lessen the financial strain of their daughters’ dowry since the younger the girl’s age at marriage, the smaller the dowry can be.

Bangladesh Does Little to Protect Child Rights

Despite the many laws that child marriage in Bangladesh continues to violate, Bangladesh has done little to enforce the laws and protect children’s rights.

One positive note is that the government does plan to register all marriages and births, which would provide greater oversight. However, Bangladesh’s reservation to the Convention on Consent to Marriage indicates the country is not ready to confront the differing practices based on religious communities. Embracing the whole of the convention both by dismissing the reservations and implementing procedures to enforce all obligations would broaden protection for the Bangladeshi people. Regardless of the existence of legislation to combat the tradition of child marriage in Bangladesh, insufficient enforcement of the laws will preserve the practice of child marriage to the detriment of young girls in the country.

Article By 

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Mass Child Marriages Continue in India Despite State Law

Mass Child marriage ceremony

88 Villages in India Bans Child Marriage

Photo courtesy Yavatmalonline.com

Swaziland Bans Child Marriage

Swazi pic

Every Three Seconds, A Girl is Traded as a Swara

Swara 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.

The average age of swara girls is between 5 and 9-years-old, according to registered cases and local accounts. The reason provides an insight into the immense challenge in changing deep-rooted traditions in Pakistan: In tribal areas, a girl older than this is probably already promised to somebody else.

In Pakistan, at least 180 cases of swara were reported last year — every other day — thanks to the work of local journalists and activists. But there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of undocumented cases. Worldwide, an estimated 51 million girls below age 18 are married, according to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).

A further 10 million underage girls marry every year — one every three seconds, according to ICRW. The legal age to marry in Pakistan is 18 for boys but 16 for girls, though they can’t drive, vote, or open a bank account until adulthood. According to UNICEF, 70 percent of girls in Pakistan are married before then.

Swara FeatureMohammad Ayub, a British-trained psychiatrist from Lahore, has worked with child soldiers in Sudan and young Taliban recruits in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He now manages the Saidu Sharif Teaching Hospital in the Swat Valley, an area that came under the spotlight when terrorists attempted to kill 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai because of her struggle to promote girls’ education. “I saw small children holding guns bigger than themselves,” he says. “But these girls…. It’s just as tragic.”

Many child brides come to Ayub with severe pain, sometimes blinded or paralyzed — the effects of a psychiatric condition known as “conversion disorder.” Practically unknown in the West since the beginning of the 20th century, it has reached epidemic proportions in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Ayub. It is a sort of psychological stress that manifests in physical ailments, including convulsions, paralysis, or fits.

“Here women don’t have a voice, particularly girls,” Ayub says. “She can’t say, ‘No, I don’t want this marriage’ … so she keeps it all inside, and eventually it will come out in the form of some physical distress. We receive loads of women here, three to four cases with the same symptoms every day only in my clinic, and I mean daily! Thirteen-, 14-year-old girls, all married.”

The rise of Islamic militancy in Pakistan could only make things worse. As extremists grow more powerful, they have started imposing their own draconian rules on society — including even more discrimination against women.

In 2004, the Pakistani parliament passed an amendment to Pakistan’s penal code making swara a crime punishable by up to ten years in prison. Since then, around sixty decisions made by jirgas involving swara girls have been prevented by local courts, though in most tribal areas the law still does not apply.

Part of this story was re-published from Foreign Policy. The original article was written by Adriana Carranca. Follow her on Twitter: @AdrianaCarranca.

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Hundreds of Afghan women

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Militants Massacre 14 Female Students On School Bus

I stand with Malala

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Adolescent’s Journey in Bangladesh

Kishori Abhijan “adolescent’s journey”.

The Kishori Abhijan/Empowerment of Adolescents is an initiative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Located in Bangladesh the group works with young girls giving them the tools they need to make their own choices.

The project focuses on providing leadership skills and life skills for unmarried girls on issues such as child marriage, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. It also offers technical training for livelihoods such as garment production or photography, as well as advice on how to start a business.

“We feel that if the adolescent boys and girls can take care of themselves, then that is a step forward, at least for them,” said Rosy Parvin, a unit organizer for the Kishori Abhijan project in Chapai Nawabganj, near the western Bangladeshi city of Rajshahi. “In the past, a village girl did not have any right to talk about herself. Today, she can talk with her parents and also negotiate with them. She can say if they are doing something wrong.”

In rural Bangladesh, girls from poor families are considered eligible for marriage at the onset of puberty – meaning children as young as 13 and 14 years old often become wives.

In an effort to bargain down dowry prices, partly to “protect” their children against sexual harassment, impoverished families seldom think twice before handing their girls off to husbands who are often much older.

UNICEF trained group leaders form self-help groups known as ‘kishori clubs’. Every fortnight 30 peers gather to discuss everything from reproductive health and nutrition to gender roles and violence against women.

Kishori clubs work with affiliated grassroots organizations like the Centre for Mass Education in Science (CMES), which operate in hundreds of sub-districts around the country and have proven invaluable in providing basic training in computer literacy and carpentry, among others.

Advocates are aware that education alone will not change the mindset that perpetuates child marriage. By improving economic opportunities for impoverished families, hopefully parents will less likely marry off their daughters at an early age.

Rose-Anne Papavero, UNICEF chief of child protection in Bangladesh, told IPS that the agency is working with the government to “provide conditional cash transfers (of $472 per year) to poor families… if they agree not to marry off their (underage) daughters, not to use child labor, and not practice corporal punishment.”

At the local registrar office, a union cannot be registered unless birth certificates are checked and parties meet the legal age of marriage, 18 for girls and 21 for boys. Before the group there were no such policies in place.

The program began in 2001 in response to an alarming number of child marriages in India.

Source: IPS News & UNICEF Bangladesh

Edited by Gillian Felix

Find out how children in India are making a difference in their future: Young Reporters Fight Against Child Marriage

5 Quotes Regarding Child Marriage

In the 8 months I’ve been posting about child marriage here are some of the memorable people and quotes that have struck a cord with me.

FORWARD – Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development.

I had the pleasure of interviewing two associates from the organisation, Ambassador Gavin Weston and Events and Special Projects Coordinator Naomi Reid.

Child marriage quote from FORWARD

Quote courtesy FORWARD

Please visit Forward’s website and check out the amazing work they are doing.

Peris Tobiko – First Maasai woman elected to Kenyan Parliament.

Quote regarding child marriage

Quote courtesy Global Press Institute

To appreciate the significance of this win for Mrs. Tobiko, you have to understand how difficult it was for her to get to where she is. She grew up in a culture where girl’s education was not valued and it was normal for parents to marry off their daughters at a very young age. During the election she had to put up with dirty tricks from competing male Parliament hopefuls. Read more about Peris Tobiko’s election.

Girls Not Brides – Global Partnership to End Child Marriage

Quote on Child marriage

GirlsNotBrides.org

Child marriage is a global problem that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicity. It denies girls their rights to health, to live in security and to choose when and whom they marry. It cuts short girls’ education and traps them, their families and their communities in a cycle of poverty.

Learn more about Girls Not Brides here.

Gavin Weston – Author of the novel Harmattan.

Quote on Child Marriage by Gavin Weston

Quote by Author Gavin Weston

Harmattan is a novel that takes us into the mind of a 12-year-old girl who is forced into marriage after the death of her mother. The novel serves as a vehicle for raising awareness of child marriage. As an Ambassador for FORWARD, Mr. Weston promotes the campaign at book signings and speaks at conferences regarding child marriage.

Read more about Harmattan here. In case you missed it check out my interview with Mr. Weston here.

Wanjala Wafula – Founder of The Coexist Initiative

Quote on child marriage

Quote from Wanjala Wafula

The Coexist Initiative is a Kenyan community-based organisation that works alongside boys and men to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence. Coexist was awarded the African Achievers Awards 2012, celebrating the successes of engaging men and boys as a means to empower young girls.

Check out my article on The Coexist Initiative.

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