“By getting men to reject the practices that subordinate women and girls and subject them to violence, we can get to the root of child marriage.”
-Wanjala Wafula, The Coexist Initiative
On Wednesday, October 11, 2017 the world recognized International Day of Girl Child and the focus of this year was child marriage. It is unfortunate but necessary for us to recognize the plight of young girls around the world being forced to marry before the age of 18.
One of our applicants at the Asherah Foundation was a child bride herself, forced to marry a man 40 years older than her following a forced female circumcision ritual. She was expected to accept that she will not have a role in society other than besides housework and raising children. She was subject to sexual exploitation and felt like a slave in her own home for two years, until she found an opportunity to leave. She escaped from her village and is now in pursuit of her second degree, so that she can assist with community development and improve the lives of young women. Her story has encouraged us to share this problem young girls are facing.
We have also heard from women whose mothers or sisters were married off as children, and they have fought for their right to pursue education. Others have dedicated their pursuit of education to finding solutions for treatment of women in their society. As stated by one of our applicants, Kimuli Doreen, “The education system in Uganda today is facing challenges including, early child marriages, increased child sacrifices, high school dropout, rape, [and] women discrimination,” and she is dedicated to positive change in her community. A common theme in these applicants stories is the change education made in their lives.
Her youth makes her unable to be an equal in her marriage. Her voice is silenced in matters of finance, her reproductive rights, and her education. While a girl is physically able to conceive at a young age, she is not physically ready to birth. According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), “Pregnancy is consistently among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.”
As stated by the ICRW, “Educating adolescent girls has been a critical factor in increasing the age of marriage in a number of developing countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand.” Aside from the stability and opportunities that stem from higher, women will also be more their own reproductive health.
Child marriage typically results in girls being financially dependent upon their husbands. By attending college, women are more likely to find employment in an industry that pays more which improves the living standard for them and their families. They will have the financial stability to make their own decisions and pursue their own dreams.
Women pursuing education has a spiraling effect, in which their children will be more inspired to follow through with higher education. It’s also shown that women who earn an income give back to their community and support social causes more than their male counterparts. These women are more likely to protect their daughters and other girls within their community, which brings us one step closer to the end of child marriage.