This is a speech I wrote and delivered for an audience of 14/15-year-old girls and boys:
Could you imagine being married in the next three years? Could you imagine being forced to be married in the next three years? Well, 28 girls every minute live this reality. Girls Not Brides aims to stop child marriage for boys and girls by campaigning to raise the legal age for marriage to 18.
One in three girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18. India has the highest total number of child marriages, at over 26 million. However, by per head of population, it is actually more common in Africa, with 76 percent of girls in Niger being married before they reach adulthood and 2 out of 3 were married in the Central African Republic and Chad. It is easy to think this problem does not happen in the UK, but actually the government estimates that over 5000 are at risk of being forced into marriage every year. In 2016 alone, the UK’s forced marriage unit dealt with 371 cases of forced child marriages. Therefore, we know that child marriage happens all over the world.
So why does it happen? Child marriage is rooted in gender inequality and in most developing countries, women are perceived as significantly inferior to men. Girls across the world are still considered the father’s property whether you notice it or not. Although most of us in the UK are privileged enough to choose our own significant others, who traditionally gives the bride away? This may seem like a sentimental tradition but it wasn’t always. On the other hand, girls in some LEDC countries are physically traded as commodities. They are not given The same liberties as us simply because they are female.
Poverty is another large reason for child marriage. Often, young people are married off to relieve pressure on their families, as they have one less mouth to feed. Furthermore, child marriage can help repay debt and in some countries a dowry is paid to the bride’s family.
What’s even harder to understand about the reasons for child marriage occurrence, is when it is for cultural practices. Our culture should be about our food, our music, our art, not about taking away people’s freedom. But should we interfere if it is the cultural practices? Of course. Child marriage is a violation of human rights and it is because of these breached rights, that we must intervene.
This is a world issue.
In countries that have higher gender inequality, there are significantly higher rates of war, extremist groups, and levels of violence—for example through mafias or drug gangs. Having a more equal society also tends to coincide with economic stability and overall prosperity. Helping to reduce child marriage means that girls are more likely to fulfil their potential; benefit from education and take a more active leadership in government. This is not only good for the individual and their country but also striving towards world peace.
In order to stop child marriage, we must support the charity Girls Not Brides. By donating to projects that support and educate girls, we start the process that leads to strong, empowered women and hopefully a more equal future. As children ourselves, we may not have the resources to donate; instead, by raising our voices and sharing the facts, we can enlighten people and spread awareness.
In conclusion, I believe that it is in everyone’s interest to support girls not brides. Only by campaigning to end child marriage will teenagers like us across the world have the freedom to determine our own futures. And one final point, in the time it has taken me to give the speech, 126 girls will have been forced into a marriage across the world.
Thank you for listening, are there any questions?
1) Does the West have a right to interfere with a practice that has existed within a culture for a long time?
- We don’t have to interfere; we can simply influence: politics, use of money, trade (limit trade with countries that aren’t trying to reduce child marriage)
- Culture is not static, Things change; for example, gay marriage views and laws in the UK.
- The world is developing and so must we.
- We can help spark the change.
2) What would you say is the biggest negative impact on girls in this situation?
- Reduction of life’s freedoms and choices
- Early child bearing can lead to illness and further limits choice