Early-Marriages Are Detrimental
Since I was little, I imagined what my future wedding would be like. The dress, the layout, the partner; all children daydream about the day they will marry their soulmate. I always wondered what they would look like, their personality, how we would meet, how old I would be and how long it would take for us to get engaged. But I realise now, my imagination of what the future would hold for me was because I get to make a choice. Unfortunately, choice isn’t granted to every girl in the world.
I’m eighteen, and currently, I don’t see myself marrying for probably another ten years. I haven’t met the person – I haven’t even come close. But 12 million girls all over the world are married before they reach eighteen. Before their life begins. 23 girls every minute; almost 1 every 2 seconds. A choice they can’t make themselves; a choice they aren’t allowed to make themselves.
Being Welsh, I know gender pay inequality is still an issue that women in the UK face, but in the big scheme of things, it’s hardly the women of the world’s biggest concern. Of course, the gender pay gap ought to close and I truly hope it does; I aim to be a part of that conversation. But the truth of the matter is, gender inequality reaches so far beyond pay in many of the countries around the world and extends to the genuine belief that women are so inferior to men on a much larger scale. In numerous countries, being born a girl immediately creates a burden on a family; to ease economic hardship, and ‘burden’ another family in place of theirs, families marry off their young daughters. Patriarchal values aid in child marriage, as there is a desire by the patriarchal society in these countries to control a women, by the way they dress, how she should behave and most importantly, who she should marry.
Child marriage seems to us like some barbaric burden placed on young girls. So many countries practice child marriage simply as it is something that has happened for generations, but it doesn’t justify the practice. In Southern Ethiopia for example, harmful practices are often linked, with child marriage leading to female genital mutilation; practices may be tradition, but they can be harmful to those involved. Many young girls who are married are expected to have children, but many get pregnant when their bodies have only just started puberty. They die because their bodies are not equipped to carrying a baby, and certainly not built for giving birth to them.
GirlsNotBrides is a global partnership of over 1000 civil society organisations which are dedicated to ending child marriage. Their theory of change involves ideas such as empowering girls and giving them opportunities to build skills and knowledge; by encouraging them to become agents of change themselves, we can continue the chain of empowering young girls. With the Safe Space Programmes, we can successfully build girls’ self-confidence, for married girls who do not receive an education, they offer self-sufficiency and having a safe place to meet with other girls who have shared the same experiences, the feeling of isolation and vulnerability can begin to be removed. The work the global partnership does with men and boys who become husbands, or who are brothers and fathers shows the value of encouraging young girls and aiding to fulfil their potential.
Child marriage, according to ‘GirlsNotBrides’ website ‘violates girls’ rights to health, education and opportunity. It exposes girls to violence throughout their lives and traps them in a cycle of poverty’. More than 650 million women, and over 150 million men have suffered child marriage, and without faster progress the global number of women married as children will reach 1.2 billion by 2050. If we help to support GirlsNotBrides, we can help end the devastating consequences of child marriage. Progress is being made, with the African Union and the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children having launched initiatives to help end child marriages and support young married girls; more and more countries are developing national action plans to end child marriage, in partnership with the UN.
A campaign conducted by the Network of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Women Organizations of Kosovo (a project under the EU-UN jurisdiction ‘Implementing Norms, Changing Minds’) have allowed for communities in Kosovo to understand the detrimental restrictions early-marriage forces upon young girls’ prospect of a safe life. A young man named Qerim completed his training on the prevention of early-marriage and has begun his door-to-door programme of beginning conversations in his neighbourhood and is encouraging them to consider the effects early-marriage has on the young women within their own community. By opening the conversation to communities where child marriage is often a tradition, we can help prevent the practice.
You may not think this is a problem we should deal with, as it is not a problem on Britain’s doorstep. But it doesn’t mean we can’t help in the matter. Supporting the UN and global partnerships like GirlsNotBrides, FreedomUnited, Amnesty International, Plan International and so many more can make even the slightest difference. By continuing the conversation and understanding how early-marriages are detrimental, you are a part of change.
Child marriage needs to stop and progress isn’t happening fast enough. Support these global partnerships and become a part of change.
By Tirion Davies