Today is the Day of the African Child, a day dedicated to remembering the brave students in South Africa who were massacred for protesting against the apartheid, inequality and injustice within the educational system. Every child has a right to education, to their body, to be treated equally and more than anything, to be happy. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the reality as children continue to be mistreated and exploited across the globe.
Although the children of South Africa were protesting for a change in the educational system, many children today have little chance of receiving an education due to child, early and forced marriage. Child, early and forced marriage is estimated to have affected over 15 million girls around the world. It’s an issue that breaks several basic rights, an issue that snatches away a child’s control over their future before it has hardly begun.
I want to end child, early and forced marriage because a child cannot be mature enough for marriage and neither are their bodies - around 70,000 girls die due to child birth every year. Additionally, non-consensual marriage increases the chance of a girl being abused both physically and emotionally by their partners, who in most cases are much older than themselves. There are many reasons why child, early and forced marriage take place, such as poverty, traditions, gender inequality and a government’s failure in passing legislation that ends the practice and protects children. I believe there are many methods to help end this unacceptable practice, such as education within communities, advocacy and powerful laws. We need to involve everyone that has the power to help us move away from child, early and forced marriage.
I am campaigning with #YouthForChange who is passionate about and working hard to end gender-based violence such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation. #YouthForChange originally derived from the run up to the 2014 Girl Summit, where they organised an event so the young voices could be heard as part of the summit. It’s important to listen to young voices because they bring a different perspective on how nations can eradicate gender-based issues. No one can speak better for young people, than young people.
Since the successful event, #YouthForChange has gone on to welcome new members. And #YouthForChange will be launching an online hub that gives young people around the world a platform to network and speak about the issues they are passionate about. So, watch this space.
Although child, early and forced marriage cannot be diminished overnight, I strongly believe it can end with a generation. At least that’s what I strive to achieve and I hope you will join me