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Prevent Child Marriage: Help Give Millions of Girls a Choice and a Chance

Written By: Kelly Castagnaro
July 22, 2010

 

As many Akimbo followers know, IWHC has been working in close collaboration with colleagues in Washington to advocate for the passage of the Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (S.987/H.R. 2103).

During a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing last week on the causes and consequences of child marriage, members of Congress and leading health and human rights organizations, including IWHC,  submitted written and oral testimonies.  Calling for a coordinated partnership among the U.S. government, health care professionals, nongovernmental organizations, and other key stakeholders, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer stated that by working together, “we can put child marriage where it belongs, in the dust bins of history.”

But perhaps the most moving plea for action from Congress came in the form of a letter to Senator Barbara Mikulski, authored by Mamadou Elhadji  Coulibaly.  Mamadou is 12, and a member of School Girls Unite, our longtime advocacy partner that works to bring the voices of young people to policymakers on behalf of the human rights and well-being of girls everywhere:

I’m a 12 year old African-American boy. And I’m STRONGLY against child marriage. It just basically messes up your whole life. Just imagine yourself as a young child wanting to make their dreams come true to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. But then you get married at a young age- do you really think that those dreams are still alive? It would take a miracle for those dreams to happen. Just imagine yourself as a young girl married at age 11 and at age 15 and you already have 3 children. Do you really think that you will you could be a senator in your country? This happens all around the world- can you just imagine a child dreams getting crushed just because they got married at a young age? It’s just sad I can’t even imagine this happening to one of my two sisters- they wouldn’t even be in school. And my older sister could’ve already had her first child. I can’t even believe this even happens this world is just going crazy. And this mostly happens too girls in Africa. I’ve been in my home country Mali, and you would be very lucky to see a female doctor, lawyer, or scientist because the child marriage rate in Mali is 65%. And if you’re a girl and you get married at a young age in Mali you would be very very very very lucky to go to school. I would like to thank you Senator Mikulski for reading my letter. And thank you for being such a strong supporter of S 987.

To build on the momentum generated from the hearing and the ongoing efforts of advocates like Mamadou, we need your help. Please write your Representative and Senators TODAY—your voices will help secure the right of girls everywhere to decide if, when, and whom they marry, and ensure that this important piece of legislation becomes law:

Dear [NAME]:

Worldwide, more than 60 million women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18- often at the encouragement of their parents and often to much older men–with no say in the decision.

By passing and implementing the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (H.R. 2103 and S. 987), the United States will take an important step towards securing the rights of girls and women everywhere to a just and healthy life.

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (H.R. 2103 and S. 987), introduced by Rep. McCollum (D-MN) in the House and Sens. Durbin (D-IL) and Snowe (R-ME) in the Senate would require the president to develop a strategy to combat child marriage; integrate the issue of child marriage into relevant US development programs; and require the State Department to report on the practice in its annual Human Rights Report.

I am concerned about this grave human rights violation and know that you will do what you can to ensure this legislation is passed into law this year.

Sincerely,

[NAME]

For more information, check out:

  • Written statement for the record submitted to the Human Rights Committee by IWHC President Adrienne Germain
  • IWHC’s fact sheet on child marriage
  • An op-ed authored by Rep. McCollum (D-MN) and Rep. Crenshaw (R-FL) in Roll Call highlighting the issue of child marriage.
2 Responses to "Prevent Child Marriage: Help Give Millions of Girls a Choice and a Chance"
  1. People marry for many reasons, including one or more of the following: legal, social, libidinal, emotional, economic, spiritual, and religious. These might include arranged marriages, family obligations, the legal establishment of a nuclear family unit, the legal protection of children and public declaration of commitment.

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