Today, October 11, is the International Day of the Girl Child as named by the United Nations and the focus theme this year is Ending Child Marriage. As someone who makes her living celebrating marriage, I strongly believe that it’s important that every marriage is entered into willingly and lovingly. Sadly, for many young girls, this is not the case.
In developing nations, one in seven girls is forced into marriage before her 15th birthday. Some of these child brides are as young as eight years old, marrying men upwards of 20 years their senior. Child marriage is not isolated – it’s in the millions.
From the Girls Not Brides website:
Every year, an estimated 10 million girls aged under 18 are married
worldwide with little or no say in the matter. That’s more than 25,000
girls every day, or 19 every minute. In the developing world, one in
seven girls is married before her 15th birthday.
Neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers,
these girls are at far greater risk of experiencing dangerous
complications in pregnancy and childbirth, becoming infected with
HIV/AIDS and suffering domestic violence. With little access to
education and economic opportunities, they and their families are more
likely to live in poverty.
Once a girl is married, her schooling is usually ended and she is thrust into the role of wife, housekeeper and mother. Instead of playing with dolls, they are tending babies. Child marriage robs girls of their childhood.
So what can you do?
Learn and share. Let others know about child marriage and its impact on millions of girls and their families.
Donate. Every dollar helps organizations in educating and changing the social climate to reject child marriage. Catapult has a number of organizations dedicated to ending child marriage you can support.
Liene Stevens of Think Splendid, is credited to bringing the Day of the Girl Child and child marriage to my attention. I’d like to share the following from her blog, on how to support two great projects that help people in developing nations escape the yoke of poverty, which in turn, aids in ending child marriage:
Lack of access to clean water keeps the poverty cycle going, and it is
especially damning for girls. If a school doesn’t have a bathroom, then
pre-teen and teenage girls have to miss a week of school each month
because of their periods, leaving it difficult for them to catch up to
the boys in education and making it more difficult to pass the tests
required to get into college or other higher levels of schooling, making
it difficult to get better, higher paying jobs. With a higher paying
job, girls can support their families with outside means; without it the
families often use the girls as a means of support. Then the cycle
continues. Charity: Water is an organization that works to provide clean water
for communities around the world. Having access to clean water is an
important step in ending poverty and ending child marriage.
Kiva allows you to make a small loan (in increments of $25) to other entrepreneurs around the world.
When the loan is paid back, you have the option to withdraw it or
re-loan it to another entrepreneur. These loans help real people run
their businesses, allowing them to build a better life for their
families and end the cycle of poverty. You can also give Kiva giftcards,
which make great stocking stuffers or thank you gifts, and because of
the payback/re-loan model, it becomes a gift that keeps on giving. If
you’re interested in loaning specifically to people in the global wedding industry, you can find those options here.