MEDIA ADVISORY
October 21, 2015

Survivors to visit D.C., NY to join U.S. government, experts in discussing new research, initiatives aimed at ending the practice

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Four Cameroonian activists campaigning to end child marriage in a part of the country where nearly 80 percent of girls are married by the time they turn 18 will come together in Washington with heads of global NGOs and the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues on Thursday, November 5, 2015.

The four women, all today engaged in empowering women and putting an end to child, early and forced marriage in Cameroon and elsewhere, will make their first advocacy trip to the U.S. next month as part of Girl Summit DC 2015. Held a little over a year after the first ever Girl Summit in London, the daylong Girl Summit DC 2015, hosted by the International Women’s Health Coalition and several partner organizations, will include a discussion of new research and successful initiatives from around the world.

Ahead of their appearance at the summit, all four Cameroonian activists are available for interviews. They will be available in Washington and New York between October 30 and November 6.

THE ACTIVISTS

Sike Bille, a feminist and women’s rights activist, founded the Association de Lutte Contre les Violences Faites aux Femmes (the Association for the Struggle Against Violence Against Women), known as ALVF, in 1991 in Cameroon’s capital city, Yaoundé, to work toward a world where men and women can live together equally in both public and private spaces. In 1998, she opened a local chapter of ALVF and drop-in women’s health center in Maroua, in Cameroon’s Extreme-North, a region where gender-based violence was common, and women had little control over their lives. Because so many of the ALVF-EN’s clients were women who were forcibly married at young ages and left to fend for themselves and their children when abandoned by their husbands, in 2001, she helped some of them found the Association pour la Promotion de l’Autonomie et des Droits de la Jeune Fille/Femme (Association for the Promotion of Autonomy and the Rights of Young Girls and Women), known as APAD, to support each other.

Danedjo Hadidja escaped from marriage to a man almost three times her age when she was a teenager. She was a founder and is now president of APAD, a Cameroonian organization committed to promoting the rights and independence of young mothers and survivors of early and forced marriage, and empowering these women and girls to share their experiences and support other victims. APAD continues to be led by women who survived or escaped child marriage.

Aîssa Doumara was pulled out of school at the age of 16 and married off to a 37-year-old man. Within a year, she became pregnant for the first time. Now dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls both in her country and around Africa, she co-founded ALVF-EN, which is today a leading voice in the movement against child marriage.

Mairamou was sent off at age 15 to marry a friend of her father, who was 45. He mistreated and beat her every time she refused to have sex, and after she fled back to her parents’ home, she began attending ALVF-EN’s educational workshops on early and forced marriage, women’s rights, and sexual health. She participated in vocational and workshop facilitation trainings so she too could become self-sufficient and organize similarly empowering educational sessions for other young girls. After operating a donut business and gaining financial independence, she joined APAD in 2005 and today teaches sewing to young girls.

BACKGROUND ON CHILD MARRIAGE AND GIRL SUMMIT DC

Since the Girl Summit in London, the United States has joined other world governments in pledging to invest in efforts to end child and forced marriage. Every year, approximately 15 million underage girls are forced into marriage – a practice with disastrous lifelong impacts on women’s health, education, autonomy and safety. Child marriage forces young women to leave school, limiting their educational and professional opportunities, as well as their potential for financial independence. And, without access to accurate information about their sexual and reproductive health, girls who marry young often have early pregnancies, raising their risk of pregnancy and childbirth complications, which can be fatal or leave them with lifelong injuries.

Other speakers at Girl Summit DC 2015 who will address effective solutions and successful programs will include:

  • Susan Markham, Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, U.S. Agency for International Development
  • Rachel Vogelstein, Director, Women and Foreign Policy Program, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Nancy Birdsall, President, Center for Global Development
  • Françoise Girard, President, International Women’s Health Coalition

The summit will be hosted at the Center for Global Development, 2055 L Street, NW, Washington, D.C. (fifth floor).

The day will open at 8:45 a.m. with a breakfast hosted by American Jewish World Service, and a light lunch will also be served. The summit will wrap up around 2 p.m., and members of the media are invited to attend some or all of the day.

Members of the media wishing to interview the activists or attend and cover the conference should contact Samantha Kupferman at West End Strategy Team at (202) 215-9260 or via email at [email protected].