In my communication skills class, we had to write a mini ted talk. I decided to write mine about child marriage. I have really enjoyed this unit of this course, and I hope you enjoy my ted talk.
Imagine this: You are a twelve year old girl. You should be learning about what’s happening around the world, experiencing new languages, instead, you are forced to marry a forty year old man and have his children. You have no say in this decision. Your parents need you to marry a wealthy man and the creepy old guy that’s old enough to be your father is all there is. You are beaten, sexually abused and treated like dirt by this man. This is a reality for so many young girls just like me. Every year 15 million girls are married as children, denied their rights to health, education and robbed of a childhood. If we do nothing, by 2030 an estimated 16.5 million girls a year will be married as a child. In the time it has taken you to read this post so far, over 30 girls have been forced into a marriage.
Child: an immature or irresponsible human being. This is one of the definitions of the word child. Why are children being smacked in the face with the responsibilities of an adult? The average adult is married at twenty seven- double the age of what some girls are being married at in countries such as Niger, Yemen, and Malawi. Rawan is an eight year old living in Yemen. My sister is also eight years old- full of energy, just wanting to have fun. The only thing that’s significantly different between Rawan and my sister Cate, is that three years ago in Yemen, Rawan was forced to marry a forty year old man. Rawan died on her wedding night because she was sexually abused by her husband. An eight year old, abused by her husband. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like if Cate were to be in this situation. The thought of this makes me sick inside. Eight year olds are meant to dance around and play pretend games, not worry about marriage. Why is this happening in the world? Rawan was just a kid, just like Cate is. Rawan wanted to learn, make crafts, play sports. Instead she was killed. Riots followed this event. The public was not okay with this. Yet, still the government didn’t do enough to stop this from happening in the future.
If we lived in a country like Niger, 75 percent of the girls in this room would be married to a man decades older than us now, or in the next few years. A teen girl in Nigeria stated “If a girl is 15 and not married people will start complaining.” People will start complaining because a teenage girl doesn’t have to worry about marriage. Aaliyah is a fourteen year old living in Egypt. She was born into a very poor family, and her parents were illiterate. She never learned to read or right and had few marketable skills. There were no other options for her than to marry a 26 year old man. She stated in an interview with the charity ‘Girls Not Brides’: “My mother in law was very rough with me, she kept insulting me all the time. My husband started beating me for every mistake. The family kept me doing all household chores and serving the whole family, so I miscarried my first and second pregnancies. I never had the chance to get antenatal health care.” Aaliyah is not just worried about how this marriage has impacted her, but also how it has impacted her three children. She stated: “I did not know to get my first child a birth certificate, so he could not join school and lost his chance to get vaccinations. I insisted on getting birth certificates for the other 2 kids. But my oldest child will have a poor family because he is not educated.” This poor fourteen year old had to deal with being verbally and physically abused, and keep her children alive as her husband was little help. When she was in her late twenties, she decided to change her life. She joined the factory to work and earn some money to raise her kids in a better way. “For the first time, I feel like a human being and can face my own problems and tell my story to other; mainly to mothers to advise them not to marry girls early.” Aaliyah quoted. She started her life as an innocent child bride, and now she is without her abusive husband, provides resources to make changes for her children, and has found a voice inside her to speak up about this horrible thing called child marriage.
It’s insane how many girls a year are being forced to marry someone old enough to be their father. It needs to stop. Thankfully, there are over over twenty charities to help fight child marriage. Girls not Brides, CARE, Breakthrough, ICRW, World Vision, Girls UP, and Save the Children are just a few examples of some great organizations that fight to end this global issue. Without everyone in the world being aware of this issue, it is impossible to end it. In order to end this curse called child marriage, we have to empower girls in poor countries. We have to let them know they should have the ability to stand up to their husbands. We have to increase girls access to education, maximize AID dollars, support charities that end child marriage, transform these harmful cultural norms, and support the needs of child brides. This problem needs to be addressed and the least I can do is write about it. I hope after hearing these stories about Rawan and Aaliyah’s experiences you will donate to a charity that helps this problem. Just imagine being married to a grown man as a teen or even a child; that’s the least you can do.