Knowledge is Power: Child Marriage

GGC’s National Service Project 2011: EmPOWERing Girls is all about recognizing the power that girls have to impact their communities and to change the world around them.

When Nujood Ali was 10 years-old she bravely walked into a courthouse in Yemen and asked for a divorce from her abusive husband – a man three times her age. This single act of courage not only changed her life but also the lives of countless women in her country and around the world by drawing attention to the issue of child marriage.

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According to the International Centre for Research on Women, child marriage – defined as marriage before age 18 –  devastates the lives of girls, their families and their communities. Worldwide there are over 60 million child brides, most of whom are taken out of school, limiting their education and future employment options. Many suffer the health risks associated with early childbearing, including sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and high rates of maternal and child mortality. They are also more likely to be victims of abuse and social isolation all of which can perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

While most Canadians think of child marriage as a problem in other parts of the world, a recent article by Barbara Kay in the National Post points out that it is also practiced here in Canada. She proposes that one solution to the problem for the girls involved is empowerment through education. And she’s not alone: according to UNICEF, evidence shows that the more education a girl receives, the less likely she is to marry as a child. Improving access to education for both girls and boys and eliminating gender gaps in education are important strategies in ending the practice of child marriage.

Nujood’s bold action caught the attention of the media and leaders around the world including Hilary Clinton. Her stand even resulted in her government re-examining Yemen’s laws regarding child marriage (though the laws have yet to change). Her story also inspired other young girls to seek emancipation from their marriages and today Nujood is enjoying her childhood, focused on her education with hopes of becoming a lawyer.

Check out The Girl Effect, an online video which also explores the effects of child marriage and the importance of education in helping girls reach their full potential.

Knowledge is power – how do you think education for girls can help combat the problem of child marriage?

By Nisha, GGC staff

The Girl Effect is a movement driven by girl champions around the globe.
For more information, visit The Girl Effect website.

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3 Responses to Knowledge is Power: Child Marriage

  1. Callista says:

    I read this book and reviewed it for my other blog. It was a tough read as I kept imagining my 10 year niece in a similar situation and it’s horrible! However it’s a good read to remind us that not talking about things doesn’t make them not happen. As a Girl Guide Leader, we should be making the older girls aware that such atrocities exist.

  2. whatsaysyou says:

    I read the book about Nujood Ali about a year ago and it opened my eyes to help me understand that child marriages still exist in this day and age. Education definitely empowers a child, especially a girl. As long as a child gains an education, she has other future options that will not only guarantee that she keeps her childhood but also empower her as an individual. Child marriages to me aim to rob a child of her childhood and deny her right to pursue a bright future.

  3. It’s amaging what education can do: It educates the girl as well as her community – those around her as to what’s right, fair, logical, sustainable, ethical, etc.

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