Education Is A Key To Ending Child Marriage

Education Is A Key To Ending Child Marriage

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In developing countries such as Ethiopia, 1 in 3 girls will be married before the age of 18 (http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/themes/education/). Soon, child brides as young as 14 years old become mothers who are unprepared to care for themselves let alone take on the responsibility of raising a family. Child marriage not only deprives young girls of their childhood, it takes away their right to an education.

Effects on Education and Health

More often than not, child marriage marks the end of girls’ education. In countries with, “harmful social attitudes and behaviors,” towards women, schools are not, “supportive places of learning,” nor are they seen as necessary (https://www.unicefusa.org/stories/educating-worlds...). In communities such as Malda, India, girls are married off at young ages for financial reasons. Here, women do not provide a source of income; therefore, higher levels of education are viewed as irrelevant. For many families living in poverty, marrying off a daughter can mean one less mouth to feed (http://www.fordfoundation.org/library/multimedia/b...). Societal norms and attitudes overlook the value of girls, denying them a better future.

Adolescent pregnancies and the responsibility for a family that come with child marriage is a huge barrier in the way of receiving an adequate education. In fact, 75% of child brides in Nigeria cannot read or write (http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/themes/education/). With a lack of education, child brides’ personal development hinders, as does their, “ability to contribute to their family and community” (http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/themes/education/).

This structural violence takes away girls’ right to decide their future and often leads to different forms of domestic abuse. Ashley Judd, Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), puts it simply, “sex within forced marriage is not sex, it is rape” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/03/1...). Child brides are often forced into early pregnancies for which their bodies are not ready, as they have not yet reached maturity. Child marriage results in, “…harmful consequences [for] both the [girls’] health and that of their future babies” (http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/themes/education/). With little to no education, girls lack skills they need for a better future.

Solutions – Educating Girls and Communities

Education is crucial in ending child marriage. According to a study by UNICEF, girls with secondary schooling are six times less likely to marry as children than girls with little to no education (http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/themes/education/)). Additionally, each year of delayed marriage increases the likelihood of literacy by 5.6% (http://www.ungei.org/files/Child_Marriage_Edu_Note...). That’s huge. Education continues to prove successful in improving girls’ chances at a better future with the help of programs such as TESFA (Towards Economic and Sexual Reproductive Health Outcomes for Adolescent Girls). By educating girls in an Ethiopian community on sexual and reproductive health and providing economic empowerment information and guidance, TESFA was able to prevent more than 70 marriages and get child brides back in school (http://www.icrw.org/media/news/new-icrw-report-gro...).

There are many reasons behind child marriage: economic, traditional, religious, etc. Though laws against child marriage have been passed in several countries, “they are not enforced due to countervailing norms, or because there are widespread exceptions” (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/155702...). Educating a community is just as important as educating girls and victims of child marriage. In order to change attitudes towards girls and child marriage and communities, the adults and leaders of such societies must be educated as well. The ADA (Amhara Development Association) and the ICRW (International Center for Research on Women) have worked to educate teachers and schools to encourage and support girls to achieve and succeed in the classroom. By working with parents and other community representatives to raise awareness around girls’ education and providing information on reproductive health the rate of childhood marriage has reduced (http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/girls-education-prev...).

Educated women are more likely to delay marriage and childbirth. Further levels of education will encourage girls to set and accomplish goals (http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/girls-education-prev...). “If child marriage and early pregnancies could be eliminated, this could potentially reduce the gender gap in education by about half” (http://www.ungei.org/files/Child_Marriage_Edu_Note...). Through education, child brides and girls susceptible to child marriage can build the confidence and assertiveness they need to help ensure them with a better future along with the support of their communities.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwjmwryjnszOAhUHkx4KHRFKBqoQjB0IBg&url=http%3A%2F%2Fngm.nationalgeographic.com%2F2011%2F06%2Fchild-brides%2Fgorney-text&psig=AFQjCNHOUAusx3HHI5Aht51DeYTPIt3nqQ&ust=1471653010029654

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A Letter To My Humans On Our Last Day Together

We never thought this day would come.
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I didn't sleep much last night after I saw your tears. I would have gotten up to snuggle you, but I am just too weak. We both know my time with you is coming close to its end, and I just can't believe it how fast it has happened.

I remember the first time I saw you like it was yesterday.

You guys were squealing and jumping all around, because you were going home with a new dog. Dad, I can still feel your strong hands lifting me from the crate where the rest of my puppy brothers and sisters were snuggled around my warm, comforting puppy Momma. You held me up so that my chunky belly and floppy wrinkles squished my face together, and looked me right in the eyes, grinning, “She's the one."

I was so nervous on the way to my new home, I really didn't know what to expect.

But now, 12 years later as I sit in the sun on the front porch, trying to keep my wise, old eyes open, I am so grateful for you. We have been through it all together.

Twelve “First Days of School." Losing your first teeth. Watching Mom hang great tests on the refrigerator. Letting you guys use my fur as a tissue for your tears. Sneaking Halloween candy from your pillowcases.

Keeping quiet while Santa put your gifts under the tree each year. Never telling Mom and Dad when everyone started sneaking around. Being at the door to greet you no matter how long you were gone. Getting to be in senior pictures. Waking you up with big, sloppy kisses despite the sun not even being up.

Always going to the basement first, to make sure there wasn't anything scary. Catching your first fish. First dates. Every birthday. Prom pictures. Happily watching dad as he taught the boys how to throw every kind of ball. Chasing the sticks you threw, even though it got harder over the years.

Cuddling every time any of you weren't feeling well. Running in the sprinkler all summer long. Claiming the title “Shotgun Rider" when you guys finally learned how to drive. Watching you cry in mom and dads arms before your graduation. Feeling lost every time you went on vacation without me.

Witnessing the awkward years that you magically all overcame. Hearing my siblings learn to read. Comforting you when you lost grandma and grandpa. Listening to your phone conversations. Celebrating new jobs. Licking your scraped knees when you would fall.

Hearing your shower singing. Sidewalk chalk and bubbles in the sun. New pets. Family reunions. Sleepovers. Watching you wave goodbye to me as the jam-packed car sped up the driveway to drop you off at college. So many memories in what feels like so little time.

When the time comes today, we will all be crying. We won't want to say goodbye. My eyes might look glossy, but just know that I feel your love and I see you hugging each other. I love that, I love when we are all together.

I want you to remember the times we shared, every milestone that I got to be a part of.

I won't be waiting for you at the door anymore and my fur will slowly stop covering your clothes. It will be different, and the house will feel empty. But I will be there in spirit.

No matter how bad of a game you played, how terrible your work day was, how ugly your outfit is, how bad you smell, how much money you have, I could go on; I will always love you just the way you are. You cared for me and I cared for you. We are companions, partners in crime.

To you, I was simply a part of your life, but to me, you were my entire life.

Thank you for letting me grow up with you.

Love always,

Your family dog

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?

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Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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