Girl Power! Celebrating International Women's Day
|Pictured: In an Ethiopian village, Tino (at age 9) forced to marry her 35 year old brother-in-law after her sister died. Source and full article here.|
I've been a huge fan of organizations like World Vision and Women for Women International for years, but amidst all the women's aid coverage yesterday, I came across two aid groups that really caught my eye. One group deals with educating girls in developing nations while the other organization is trying to end the practice of child marriages. I think these are two key elements in ending suffering for women in developing nations, because they go hand in hand. When I started researching the Taliban many years ago, I was shocked to hear about girls young as 12 being forced to marry men much older than them, men who no doubt force these young girls to have sex now that as far as they were concerned, owned them - owned them mind and body. As I researched child brides further this week, I'm shocked and heart broken to hear of child brides as young as 7 and 8. My oldest daughter is eight. Imagining her in this situation is unthinkable. Please take a moment to watch this video. If you can't view it in this post, you can view it here.
This is the Mission of Girls Not Brides
"Initiated by The Elders, Girls Not Brides brings together civil society organisations from around the world that work to tackle child marriage at the grassroots, national and global levels.
Members of Girls Not Brides are joining together to accelerate efforts to prevent child marriage, and to support girls who are or have been married, all over the world.
Girls Not Brides will amplify the voices of girls at risk of child marriage and defend the rights of girls to health, education and the opportunity to fulfil their potential."
You can find more information about Girls Not Brides here.
The second international women's movement that really caught my eye yesterday was Girl Rising, a film and movement to support education for girls and women in developing countries. Please take another moment to watch the movie trailer. It was so beautifully made, I've watched it about a half dozen times. If it has trouble loading on this screen, please watch it here.
On HuffPost Live, after a link to the film was posted, I was shocked to see negative comments both on the Huff Post thread and the comment thread on Facebook. There were men making negative comments about the film, claiming it's another case of media manipulation or westerners sticking their noses where they shouldn't. We know better. These are of course extreme cases as to pull on our heart strings. In a National Geopraphic article "Too Young to Wed, The Secret World of Child Brides" by Cynthia Gorney, Saranga Jain, an adolescent health specialist in Yemen says most of these child brides are 13 to 17 and that they "want to re characterize the problem as not just about very young girls". This practice is illegal and typically limited to remote areas within the affected countries, none the less, it happens, and while it's illegal and against their wills, these young women are sometimes denied divorces if they can escape and make it to a city courthouse.
Yesterday I read an article by Richard E. Robbins, one of the producers of Girl Rising. In his article "You've Been Lied to, and Other Truths About Educating Girls", he pins down a very key point - that many of us have this idea in the back of our minds, this lie that says "nothing will ever change anyway, so why try". That the world is simply divided between us and them. But things do change. They have changed for women since the days when even western women couldn't vote, couldn't hold important jobs, and were married off to relieve a family's financial burden. The only important difference between us and them is that they need a voice - someone to stand up for them, and they need to be able to stand up for themselves. You can read more of their stories here.
With the rise in social media and instantly-streaming information, we now have the opportunity and the best hope ever of continually shedding light on these issues and bringing about necessary changes. Let them say we're sticking our noses where we don't belong. That is after all what abusers fear the most.