Saturday, 8 October 2011

I want to go to school....

Child brides, a heartbreaking subject that gets a lot of public recognition and media attention. However, despite the legislation in a number of countries to have it outlawed, tragically it still goes on. Throughout the world, more than 51 million girls younger than 18 are already married . These little girls have no choice, no voice. Their chances of dying in child birth are very probable since their bodies are not ready to cope with pregnancy. For some of them, the fear and terror is so prevalent that they choose to run away from their nightmare; and when their relatives find them (and they do) the girls are sold to brothels as punishment and also as a way for the family to save face.

In Yemen, according to the United Nations only one in four Yemeni girls make it to secondary school, and have an estimated 65% illiteracy.  An estimated 50 percent of women in Yemen are married before age 18, some as young as eight. In Yemen , like other areas of the Middle East and Africa, the  practice of marrying off girls as a young as 10 is customary. It is acceptable from a religious perspective as well as an economic one.

In 2008, Shada Nasser, a human rights lawyer, took on the fight to get a divorce for a ten year old Nujood Ali .  Two month prior, little Nujood had been married off by her family to a thirty year old man, who regularly raped and beat her. Amazingly, Shada Nasser, got the case to be heard in court. Amazing, because in Yemen according to Shada, “Yemeni women have few rights, and they don’t know those they do have.

During the trial, the judge asks Nujood, if she would consider going back to her husband after a 3 to 5 year break.  Her answer was an emphatic “No,” Nujood said, “I hate this man, and I hate this marriage. Let me continue my life and go to school''.
This  statement coming from a 10 year old girl who had her childhood stolen, was raped and beaten for 2 months by her husband, yet  had the courage to stand up and say ;no’, resonated thought out  the world. ‘I want to go to school’ validates and endorses the fact that educating girls is the best way to change the culture. A simple request, yet so powerful.
Since Nujood’s case, three other little girls have come forward to ask for a divorce in Yemin.  In February Yemen's parliament passed a child marriages law setting a minimum age of 17, but it has yet to be enacted. The challenge is that there are many in Yemen who say it would contradict the laws of Islam. Still,  the winds of change are definitely being felt.
We have come a long way in 100 years and yes, we still have a long way to go.
So even if it seems we are changing the world only one girl at a time, at least, it is one more girl who is getting an education, which in turn will effect another girl and another and another.
The Girl Effect Blogging Campaign is a collaborative effort of hundreds of bloggers coming together to write about The Girl Effect during the week of October 4th-11th, 2011

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