This post was written by the lovely Kirsty Marrins.
I watched a documentary recently on BBC Three called ‘What is it like to be a child bride?’ and was shocked to find that girls as young as six in India are married off to boys not much older than themselves. They go to live with their husband when they are about 15 and fall pregnant shortly after, which is not so shocking considering here in Britain over 41,000 women under the age of 18 fell pregnant in 2008. What was shocking, however, was that once the child was married, she was taken out of school because her parents felt that education was now a waste of money and time. What need was there for her to know how to read and write when surely serving her husband was her duty in life?
Can you imagine if that happened in America or here in the UK? Imagine if television and media Guru Oprah had been married off as a child, or if US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hadn’t been allowed to complete her education? How about if Harry Potter author JK Rowling had never learnt to read and write or if winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, Marie Curie had been taken out of school aged 8?
In the documentary 14-year-old Roshan Bairwa, from a rural village in Rajasthan, took a stand and refused to be married off. “Since I took a stand, not a single girl has been married off in my village.” Roshan wants to become a teacher one day and show the girls from her village that there is more to life than just being a wife. She wants to marry once she has completed her education and, “made something of her life.”
In contrast, Seema married her husband aged 13 and is now expecting her first child. She says her life now consists of washing the dishes, cleaning the floor, cooking and washing clothes.
In September Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke at the launch of the Girls Not Brides global initiative and said child marriage is a “practice that robs millions of girls of their childhood, their rights and their dignity”. All true, but what he didn’t say was that it also robs a nation of inspirational women; women who can lead nations, like Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, women who are developing life-saving medicines such as Gertrude Bell Elion who was awarded the Nobel Prize for physiology in 1988, and ordinary woman, like my mother who ensured my sister and I had an education so that we could be anything we wanted to in life.
This is why The Girl Effect campaign is so important. We need ensure that girls have the right to use their potential to end poverty for themselves, for their families, for their country, for the world.