login  |  create an account

Category > Child Marriage

Resources about Child Marriage

  • Child marriage is marriage before age 18. About a third of young women in the Global South were married as children.
  • Girls who are married as children often lose access to education, and are at higher risk of risky childbirth.  Learn more
  • Child marriage is a violation of young women's rights and one of a number of practices which harm young women worldwide.  Learn more about gender bias around the world.


Share This Article

I’m currently interning at Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi (Center of Education and Consciousness, or ITA), a non-profit organization based in Lahore, Pakistan. As part of my internship I attended a school that ITA has built in the slums of Lahore to educate children in the area. This slum hosts one of the biggest gypsy communities of Lahore. As part of my work with the wonderful NGO, I visited with the families of the students in the school. Most of the kids came during the afternoon shift of the school as they collect garbage in the morning. I noticed an active and enthusiastic student called Sadia and decided to meet her family. After journeying through piles of rubber, plastic and paper, I finally entered the small tent where Sadia’s family resided. A cow was tied to a pole near their tent and I could smell dung and garbage. Three charpais* crowded the tent, in addition to a rusted stove, a few broken suitcases and torn clothes. I sat on a charpai with a few staff from ITA, opposite another charpai on which a 35-40 year old woman sat with an old man lying beside her, who turned out to be her husband. She wore a printed shalwar kameez* with a dupatta* over her forehead. The old man, although lying down, was fully aware of our presence.

I looked at the woman and I felt an instant connection. Her eyes glimpsed with shards of sadness, hope and despair. I took out my notepad and decided to start my unstructured interview. Kausar Bibi, the woman I interviewed, was married at the age of 12 to a 40 year old man. Every girl in her community was married at a very young age. It was believed in this community that women exist for producing children who would work for the family. She straightened her neck and proudly declared that she had eight children. I hesitated to ask at what age she had her first child but asked anyway. “14”, she said as she lowered her head. She didn’t go to a clinic. A midwife attended to her labour and gave her home-made medicine. She gave birth to all eight children in her tent without any sort of medical help.

As I digested this information, I heard a baby wail across the tent. A young girl of about ten or twelve held the baby in her arms, soothing the little boy. I assumed she must be Kausar Bibi’s daughter. I looked towards her and asked if her daughter takes care of her younger brother. She waved her hand in the air and answered in a monotone voice,” She’s not my daughter. She’s my son’s wife. And that’s her baby.” I felt a pang of guilt fluttering my heart. I realized how different my life is from theirs. I asked for her to tell her family’s monthly earnings. She looked up, calculated in her mind and said that it was about 6000rs (about $58). $58 per month for eight people (including her son’s wife and son and excluding her married daughters). 1500rs were lost to pay the rent for this land and the rest of the 4500rs was spent at home. While many consider the purpose of having several children is to increase working hands in the family, only one of her sons worked and the entire family was dependent on him. He was responsible for selling the garbage to recycling units. We spoke more and I learned that her husband was half blind, her sons weren’t interested in working, and her daughters were either married or helped in household chores, thus no one, except one of her sons, worked.

Kausar said, “We’re poor. No matter how much we work, we will always stay poor and miserable. We are surviving somehow and this setup is fine for us. “When asked about marriage, she said, “Our parents get us married to whoever they like and we don’t argue. We’ll always stay like this. Educating our girls won’t be of any use because they’ll end up getting married too.”

I spoke with her about the importance of education, the repercussions of child marriages and the consequences of giving up. She kept nodding in agreement but I knew she didn’t believe me. Why would she? Kausar had never seen anything different.  I hope that one day we can show that education can be fruitful and help get families like Kausar’s out of poverty. I hope that one day communities across    Pakistan will realize that girls deserve to make free choices and choose when and whom to marry. That is why I am working with ITA, and as part of Advocates for Youth’s Girl Engagement Advisory Board to create awareness about girls’ rights and show the results of empowering girls, so that we can adopt a healthier, happier, and more prosperous route.

A special shout out to ITA (Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi) for being a great help and providing me with this opportunity.


*charpai: traditional woven bed

*shalwar kameez: traditional outfit of Pakistan. The shalwar (pantaloons/drawers) and the kameez (body shirt)

*dupatta: Is a loomg scarf worn with shalwar kameez to cover head or chest

Categories: Child Marriage
Share This Article

The Commission on the Status of Women is the United Nation’s premiere meeting on the issues women face around the world. Soon after the inception of the UN, women (and men) from all Member States and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have come together to share experiences and develop goals for women. In earlier years, CSW contributed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and drafted the Convention on the Political Rights of Women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Commission has also charged itself as the body that collects extensive data on a country-by-country basis to determine the position of women and girls as support for the Commission’s efforts.

This year, The 59th Commission on the Status of Women focuses on the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Adopted during the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, the Beijing Platform for Action became the “most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights.” Though there were already many women (and sometimes men) on the ground fighting and advocating for women, the meeting gave participants a common plan to achieve the goals outlined in the Platform for Action. To this day, we use this document as a framework to continue the fight for gender equality and women empowerment in all corners of the world.

The Beijing Platform for Action outlined 12 critical areas of concern:

  1. Women and the environment
  2. Women in power and decision making
  3. The girl child
  4. Women and the economy
  5. Women and poverty
  6. Violence against women
  7. Human rights of women
  8. Education and training of women
  9. Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women
  10. Women and health
  11. Women and the media
  12. Women and armed conflict

Though we are far from achieving the goals outlined for each critical area, we have definitely made great strides since the Beijing conference in 1995. More girls have completed primary school. More women hold positions of power in their political bodies. More women own businesses. More member states have passed laws to protect women from gender based violence. More women live in nations where laws guarantee equal treatment. More women and girl adolescents have access to contraceptives. Fewer women die in labor.

However, we have not finished the agenda outlined in Beijing. Around a third of all women still face violence – and even more in conflict zones. About 2 million girls under age 15 each year are forced into commercial sex work. Women still face obstacles in accesses sexual and reproductive health services, including safe childbirth, modern contraceptives, and post-rape care. Nearly 37,000 girls are at risk of entering a marriage before age 18, leaving them at risk for early pregnancies, domestic violence, and lost educational opportunities. About 20 million women undergo unsafe abortions every year.

In the words of Dr. Angela Diaz, a medical doctor and advocate for adolescent health and rights, “Is this dignity for all? Is this social justice? What do you think?”

During the opening ceremony of the 59th Commision on the Status of Women, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated that our work is not done – and it’s not. He states that “our goal must be 50:50 by 2030.” Women deserve more. Women deserve a world where we don’t even have to discuss gender equality and fight for women’s empowerment because it will become an unconscious action; it will become a reality.

 And finally, as youth, we hold a special responsibility. We are the most educated, the most involved, most connected and the biggest generation ever in our world’s history. We must hold the world accountable for the goals set out on the international agenda. We must not wait until we’re “old enough” or “experienced” as our experiences, our desires, and our vision for the world is more than enough to build the world we want for women and girls.


Share This Article

Hey guys! This is Hamna Tariq from Pakistan. ViolenceI\’ve recently noticed that the streets in my city are mostly crowded with males and hardly do I spot a woman nowadays. This has concerned me greatly as girls tend to stay home, hidden from society, to prevent them from being harassed. As a result, several women leave their jobs and their families become a target of poverty. In today’s society women are not even safe enough to walk to a nearby market alone. They are trapped within the four walls of their house so they remain ‘secure’.

Adolescent girls, who dream of success, are forced to do household chores or marry someone so other men are not able to harass them. This disrupts their education and they are not able to live their life the way they want. This caged oppressive life causes psychological problems for adolescent girls and not only do they have to carry the burden of maintaining a household but also endure the pain of childbirth and an age when they should be studying.

Two years ago, I had a girl in my class, Mishaal. We were good friends and had the same subjects. However, she was forced to leave school. Why? Because her ‘brother’ felt that by coming to school, she came in contact with males thus she should sit home and do what women are supposed to do; household chores and get married. She had to sacrifice her education and her dream of becoming a doctor because of a certain mindset inculcated in our society. But why does this mindset exist in the first place? This is because of the lack of laws and regulations ensuring women’s safety. It is believed that women are ‘supposed’ to be harassed when they leave their homes. Why else would they come out?

This trend of adolescent girls being barred from society is on the increase. There should be strong and adequately resourced child protection systems which do not only secure girls from all kinds of harassment but allows them to live their lives freely without fear. Thus, safety is a pertinent issue that needs to be addressed and hopefully by working together we can protect adolescent girls all around the world from violence and exploitation.

Share This Article

We are all feminist!
People fight for every girls right,–whether in secret
or not. We have once said no to those people who,
one way or another have adjusted the beauty of the
“Girl Child.”
Life made things easy, but our new story-telling,
and blueprint-art, shaped the way things used to
be. It is quite beautiful to say we have tried our best
to influence most of the affairs of girls living in
rural areas–“to put a smile on gaunt faces.”
Today, there’s a task on each of us to help raise
awareness and #Write4Girls ; to ring the bell, and
set prosperous margins for them to follow.
In Cotonou, the Republic of Benin; teenage girls are
going through a lot of pains–from hunger strike in
major rural areas, to sexually transmitted
infections, and rape! Most of these girls have no
parents, only few of them have access to hospitals
and parental care. The selfsame happens in
Ekpoma, Edo state, Nigeria (…my state of origin);
girls have turned coated wires, nude. From peer
group relationship to hotel services. Almost 15% of
teenage girls in my environment from (14-17) are
pregnant, 10% are already mothers,–the story goes
From these circumstances “Feminism” becomes a
dwindled act, because majority of the girls we fight
for–(to get quality education, parental care and
reproductive health services…),–are knowingly
doing the wrong things.
But aside from any heart feelings, we are still
And There’s always a heart that wants to put a smile on
wrinkled faces. While “Malala,” is working on education for
every girl child, we too can do our best.
Today, there’s a new definition, the renaissance of a
new hope; thoughts that begets’ essence, and
notions that raises the bowels that once lay flat.
Our words, written or spoken, can influence and
reach the farthest places. Faults may emerge, and
we may have to shrink to environmental and
governmental laws; but the grace to move on will
spring forth, if we decide to take a stand.
This is for those girls that have lost all, those girls
that have been shut out, raped, coerced for
pleasure, used as slaves, Infected with Sexually Transmitted Infections, and made to hawk fruits
in the market.
We can do a lot more if we #Write4Girls, and
channel or thoughts to the development of every girl child.

Share This Article

In many countries, poor families start selling most of their belongings, but they still have their children to look after. To solve their poverty problem they arrange marriages for their teenage girls. However, this solution only generates more poverty because when these girl get married early they will probably stop getting an education and consequently they won’t be able to get jobs with decent incomes. Also, they will have more children that they won’t be able to look after or feed. So to prevent this poverty, child marriage has to be stopped, and this is one of the principles of the Girl Declaration. “I was not given life, only to belong to someone else”. Show your support to the Girl Declaration and end poverty before it starts.

Categories: Child Marriage
Share This Article
download (1)

There has been  dramatic increase in the number of teenage pregnancies in many parts of the developing world, and its impact on adolescent girls’ health, education and economic prospects.  Child marriage as one of the key drivers of teenage pregnancies.

Adolescent birth rates are highest where child marriage is most prevalent, and child marriages are generally more frequent where poverty is extreme. Girls in forced marriages have little say about whether or when they become pregnant. Compared to other age groups, adolescents who are married have both the lowest use of contraception and the highest levels of unmet need. Married girls between the ages of 10 and 14 and who are not in school have virtually no access to sexuality education, further increasing their vulnerability to pregnancy.

Adolescent pregnancy should not be seen only as the result of recklessness or a deliberate choice but rather that of an absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control.  To prevent adolescent pregnancies, we must stop blaming girls and start addressing the issues that make marriage and motherhood the only options for them.

Categories: Child Marriage
Share This Article

I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there\’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.

I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.

I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an \”Advocate\”.

I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
\”A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all\”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)

I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.

I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.

I am an \”Advocate For Youth\”.

Share This Article

I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.

I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.

I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an “Advocate”.

I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
“A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)

I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.

I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.

I am an “Advocate For Youth”.

Share This Article

“December 10 marks the anniversary of the presentation of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes that there are “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” But, because of the widespread practice of child marriage, 14 million girls under 18 are denied those rights each year. Here are some facts about the lives of child brides.”


Categories: Child Marriage
Share This Article

Seeing Capitol Hill for the first time is something I will never forget.

Just a little over a month ago, I was walking the hallways of the Cannon House building, on my way to my first meeting of the day. Lobby day on The Hill, another amazing opportunity granted to me by Advocates for Youth. I’d lobbied before, but I’d only ever lobbied my state senators and assembly-people. Needless to say, I was nervous. The day before at the training, I was feeling overly confident until I saw that we would also have meetings with some people I thought would be less in favor of the bill I was so desperately lobbying for- the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, a comprehensive sex education bill.

When I saw our first meeting slot, though, I felt comforted. Representative Dina Titus is a household name in my family, and she is someone I have known of very fondly. My mentor, and close friend, Annette Magnus had worked in Rep. Titus’s office in the past, and she has always spoken very highly of her. It also helped lessen the tension when I saw that Rep. Titus has a 100% approval rating of Planned Parenthood, something I expected, as she is quite the progressive, liberal woman!

Upon arrival to her office, I saw a big Nevada State doormat, the only doormat I saw in the entirety of Capitol Hill. A little piece of home was smack in the middle of a Capitol Building’s hallway, and trust me, it is hard to miss. I soon met Katie Cassling, the staffer that was meeting with me for Rep. Titus. I sat down along with Katie, another fellow ‘lobbier,’ and Julia Reticker-Flynn, a wonderful Advocates staff member. Ms. Cassling was wonderful from the get-go. I had gone over and over what I planned to say the night before, and I had already said a lot of it before since I had recently lobbied for comprehensive sex-education on the state level.

Ms. Cassling listened very thoughtfully when I told her of the sex-education I had received (and all that I had not.) I spoke from the heart and from a very personal level when I told her of my struggles entering an abstinence-only-until-marriage sex-education class as a rape and sexual assault survivor. I continued to tell her of the battle we had fought very valiantly for comprehensive sex-education in our home state and sadly lost. I think one of my most proud moments of the meeting was when I was able to hand over a stack of petitions in support that I had personally collected. I flipped through the pages with her, and she seemed very impressed. It was overall a pleasant experience, and she gave me constant affirmation that Rep. Titus supported such things. She ended the meeting with the remark that it was highly unlikely for Rep. Titus to say no to the bill! This lifted my confidence, and I was floating on air for the rest of the day.

Lobbying is an adventure for me, and it is a constant challenge on making that connection with the person you are speaking with. You only have a certain amount of time to communicate your message. I am always up for a challenge.

Overall, the meeting with Rep. Titus’s office was an experience I will not soon forget. It was a pleasant, safe environment, and I am incredibly happy to hear that Rep. Dina Titus co-sponsored the bill! Representative Dina Titus took into account what her constituents wanted, and it is a wonderful thing to feel heard. She is the first one to sign on to the bill from Nevada, and it feels amazing to have had a hand in that.

Share This Article

11 year-old Yemeni girl, Nada Al-Ahdal, posted the above video on YouTube denouncing child marriage. According to Al-Ahdal, she has run away from her home due to an impending marriage.

Child marriage is a widespread problem in Yemen. A Human Rights Watch report found that 14% of girls are married by age 14, and 52% by age 18. [1] Some of the largest problems of child marriage are:

  • Child mothers are more likely to experience health problems while pregnant or giving birth. Due to their undeveloped bodies, many young women miscarry, have still births, or die. According to Yemen’s government, 74% of all childbirth deaths were among women who married before age 20.
  • Marriage can interrupt a girl’s social and psychological development, affecting how she develops her identity. Often child marriage can induce feelings of worthlessness, depression, and suicidal thoughts. To the girl in the video, suicide is seen as a common option to many child brides.
  • Child marriage often halts a student’s education. This is Al-Ahdal’s largest concern. She states, “I would have had no life, no education. Don’t they have any compassion?” Women with little education have limited power in their relationships, along with economy insecurity.

[1] http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/05/13/trials-child-marriage

Categories: Child Marriage
Share This Article

The other day I attended a “Too Young to Wed” briefing, which was very impressive and instructive. The briefing was held in Russell Office Building by The United Nations Foundation, The Ford Foundation and Girls Not Brides. The panelists illustrated the issues in a way that was easy to understand and detailed true stories of the impact of early marriage. The panelists also talked about ways to reduce early marriage in many developing countries.

 Stephanie Sinclair, who is a Pulitzer Prize Winning photographer, presented us with many undiscovered customs and stories regarding early marriage. I was surprised to find that one in three girls in low and middle-income countries (excluding China) will marry before 18 and about 5 million girls under 15 years old marry each year.

 There are many reasons for early marriage. Some families think that blessings will come upon them if they marry off their girls before their first menstruation. Some families marry their daughters because they are poor and cannot afford to raise the girls. Some can get benefits from marrying their daughters to powerful or rich families.

 Apart from the reasons I just mentioned, what also struck me was that some marriages are not just about the couple, but a coalition of two families. So no matter how young the daughter is, she can get engaged due to her parents’ choice. Some girls are pulled out of school immediately after engagement and some wait until their first menstruation to go to the grooms’ home. However, some can still go to school and get a good education before puberty.

 To our relief, there are also some successful cases of girls resisting marriage or seeking divorce. For example, there is the amazing story of a 10 year old Yemeni girl named Nujood Ali who accused her middle-aged husband of rape. According to Yemeni law the minimum age of marriage for both boys and girls is 17.The accusation was a success. Nujood got divorced and returned to school. The other story is of Nada Al-Ahdal, an 11-year-old Yemeni girl who fled to her uncle to escape an arranged marriage and filed a complaint to the police against her parents. Now she will be living with her uncle permanently. 

 Many organizations in USA as well as in local communities are also trying to address the issue of early marriage. The research by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) shows that the programs on child marriage basically cover five aspects:  information support for girls, educating parents and communities, enhancing education, offering economic support and legislation. In the briefing, Priya Nanda, who is the Director, Social and Economic Development Group, ICRW’s Asia Regional Office mentioned that we should educate boys, girls and families at the same time. The problem in the community cannot be caused by one parent, nor it can be solved easily by educating the girls to resist early marriage and protect themselves. It is the community awareness and sensibility that we should try to address in a wholistic way.

 In China, early marriage is not a problem as far as I know. The legal marriage age in China is 22 for men and 20 for women from the updated marriage law in 1980. China has gone through many stages in terms of marriage, from polygamy to monogamy, from conservative Chinese way of writing a letter to end a marriage to legalizing divorce. In 1980, revised marriage law stated that “No marriage may be contracted before the man has reached 22 years of age and the woman 20 years of age. Late marriage and late childbirth shall be encouraged.” Also, the one-child policy was introduced in 1980 which tremendously changed the population trend and family structure of China. The average marriage age of women in China has risen from 22 in 1990 to 32.3 in 2013. We can also see a drop in the percent of married women in 15-19 years old from 4.63% to 1.21% in 2000. I am happy that early marriage is not a major problem in China now because of economic growth, legislation and education, and I do hope the situation can be improved in Yemen and many other countries through efforts all over the world.

Share This Article

When we hear about politicians making unqualified and uneducated statements about abortion and reproductive/sexual health, we just shake our heads, asking ourselves and our peers, “How does someone like that get into office?”

Not to diminish your faith in humanity, but less than a couple weeks ago, Brian Nieves, a Republican state senator of Missouri, commented in a Facebook argument to a pro-choice priest, “‘Life of the Mother?’ Your own argument proves it is a matter of convenience!”  State senator Brian Nieves later denied that he said this.  But the denial wouldn’t do him any good since his comments have been screencapped and the comment is still on the Facebook page.

There are people who treat this like it’s an isolated incident.  Like it’s nothing to worry about, but you’d have to imagine the kind of culture it takes to condition people to be able to say these things.  You don’t even have to imagine because that’s the culture we’re living in.  It’s not just one old, white male politician.  It’s several.  And they’re not necessarily always white men.

Brace yourself.  This is pretty triggering.

“These Planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness…We are not going to have our men become subservient.”

— Florida Rep. Allen West expresses a clear understanding of how oppression and privilege works.

“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”

— Texas state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, discussing why there shouldn’t be a rape or incest exception in bills restricting reproductive health care because clearly she understands how health care works.

“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.”  —Richard Mourdock, an Indiana state senator candidate who fortunately did not win.

“Understand though, that when we talk about exceptions, we talk about rape, incest, health of a woman, life of a woman. Life of the woman is not an exception.”

—Joe Walsh, former Illinois congressman revealing just how “pro-life” he really is.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

—Missouri Representative Todd Akin basically sharing how much he doesn’t know about a female body in one terrible sentence.

“The facts show that people who are raped —who are truly raped—the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.”

—former North Carolina Rep. Henry Aldridge using imaginary doctors as his sources.

“As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

—Clayton Williams regarding rape, he was a former Texas Republican gubernatorial contender and a past fundraiser for John McCain.

This is one of the many reasons why I’m in total support of Advocates for Youth.  The politicians I’ve listed are the kind of people who have been supporting legislation that not only hurts people who need abortions, but rape victims and teens in desperate need of comprehensive sex education.  It hurts people who need access to contraception, affordable health care, and everything else a person would need to live a quality life.  And it’s not going to stop until we change the culture and institutions that allows it to happen.  So, we advocate for the youth.  We have a responsibility to them to ensure that they have their rights and are to be respected.

Share This Article

When you empower women you empower a nation; when you destroy women, you destroy a nation.”

Over the past weekend, the Nigerian media has been abuzz over the debate of underage marriage being passed into law, which many consider as the legalization of child abuse. Never since the fuel subsidy protest has any other issue in Nigeria had so many outcries from the people.

Nigerians, this is your time to speak up, air your views. Should under aged children be given away in marriage? Don’t sit back and point fingers or depend on policy makers to choose for you. Your voice counts; whatever decision is taken on this issue, every Nigerian should be held responsible because with social media, there is no excuse not to participate in topical issues.

If you need to be educated more, child marriage is a violation of the rights of a child. Child marriage/pregnancy is among the main causes of severe health conditions such as VVF (when the vagina and anus merge and the woman stools and urinates from the same place – obstructed vagina due to the pressure from the size of the head of the baby). Child marriage/pregnancy leads to depression, emotional and physical trauma. Children should not give birth to children. Do you know that their bones and organs are not yet mature – in their first pregnancy, their labor is prolonged with the likelihood of a caesarian section and the baby in many cases delivered dead?

Categories: Child Marriage
Share This Article

Young sexual and reproductive rights advocates continue to push for the full integration of a rights-based approach in relation to advancing population and development goals. That was the overarching message of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Regional Youth Summit.

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, where activists representing over 40 international organizations gathered and developed a Call to Action, ensuring young people sexual and reproductive rights continue to be integrated in development agendas.

The summit brought together a diverse group of 40 young people from Eastern Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel (EECARO region), to discuss and develop priority goals. During the summit, we organized ourselves into three sessions based on interest and expertise

  1. Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development,
  2. Families, Sexual and Reproductive Health over the Life Course,
  3. Inequalities, Social Inclusion and Rights.

After lengthy conversations, each group came up with a number of recommendations to share with the entire forum for us all to debate and finalize. The culmination of our work was translated into a solid document that represents what the youth from the EECARO region want elected officials and  leaders to take into consideration. You can access the full document here.

The outcome of the summit embodied the youth vision and development priorities for the region over the next decade and was presented at the Regional Conference in Geneva. Fifteen delegates from our group (bearing in mind equal representation) attended the Geneva Conference and shared our declaration (Youth Call to Action). The speech, delivered by Grace Wilentz from YouAct (European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights) and Jakub Skrzypczyk from Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights can be found here.

On a personal note, I had a great time interacting with all the youth participants at the Regional Youth Forum and learning more about the EECARO region. It became clearer to me that the same sexual and reproductive health and rights issues we are advocating for in the US are found in other parts of the world. I was happy to discover that we are not alone in this battle. Young people from all over the world are rising up to the challenge, demanding greater youth representation in world affairs and better human rights conditions for all.



About United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA)

Tasked with the mission of delivering “a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” UNFPA is a UN organization whose efforts are guided by two main frameworks, 1) the Program of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and 2) the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which are eight targets to reduce extreme poverty by 2015.

With the date for achieving these goals fast approaching, UNFPA and its partners, such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), have been working together to ramp up their efforts. UNFPA and UNECE have been involved in the Beyond 2014 Review, an effort to engage world leaders from governments and civil society in drafting a new global commitment to create a more equal and more sustainable world.

The ICPD Operational Review has been taking place as part of the Beyond 2014 Review, and UNFPA and UNECE have been facilitating this process. Within this process, UNFPA and UNECE organized three thematic meetings on the following topics:

  1. “Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development”,
  2. “Reducing Inequities, Fostering Social Inclusion” and
  3. “Life Course, Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Families”.

As a culminating event, the agencies planned for a two-day Regional Conference entitled “Enabling Choices: Population Priorities for the 21st Century,” which was just held in Geneva (1-2 July), gathering leaders from all over the EECARO region (Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel).

Young people are at the core of the UNFPA’s mandate, offering an essential voice to help shape the future development agenda. Therefore, young people have participated in the operational review at the country level and in all the thematic meetings mentioned above. In order to continue their involvement, UNFPA EECARO has organized the Regional Youth Forum in Istanbul (30-31 May) and in which I participated, representing Advocates for Youth and the US at large.

Share This Article

This week, we celebrated the tenth and final week of 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls, a social media campaign mobilizing mass support for policies and programs that enable women and girls around the world to be healthy, empowered, educated, and safe.   Spearheaded by our friends at the International Women’s Health Coalition, and supported by hundreds of advocacy organizations around the world, the campaign focused on eight critical topics over the course of ten weeks:

  • Ensuring quality education of women and girls;
  • Putting women and girls at the center of the post-2015 global development agenda;
  • Preventing violence against women and girls;
  • Improving the health of women and girls;
  • Ending early and forced marriage;
  • Achieving peace and security for women and girls;
  • Promoting economic empowerment of women and girls; and
  • Protecting human rights and promoting leadership and participation of women and girls.

Each week, partners tweeted and posted on Facebook compelling facts, statistics, and policy asks to US government officials and other high-profile influentials in policy and media circles. The goal: push for a set of tangible, measurable, and specific policy actions the US government could take to support foreign policy efforts for women and girls.

Why the campaign and why now?  On February 1, John Kerry took the reins from Hillary Clinton as US Secretary of State.  As I laid out in this Politico piece, Kerry has HUGE shoes to fill in terms of advancing the rights of women, girls, and young people.  We all wondered, just how would he fare?  We needed a way to demonstrate our collective support for a continuation—and enhancement—of his predecessor’s policies and priorities.   Thus was born the idea for the 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls.

To date, messages have reached millions of social media users, raising awareness of women’s and girls’ rights around the world.  Many of these messages have even been retweeted by high-ranking officials representing the US government in negotiations for the post-2015 development agenda, as well as countless others.


The case for investing in women and girls has been made. NOW it is time for the US government to ACT!   Advocates for Youth will do our part to continue to apply pressure on government officials to prioritize women and girls in all facets of US foreign policy.  We’ll keep you posted as progress is achieved.

For more on the campaign, check out the discussion at #usa4women and #usa4girls.

Share This Article
WD time is now

What if all the empathy that transpired in the speeches and talks of policy makers I listened to today at the Women Deliver pre-youth conference could immediately be converted to action? This is the question I asked myself during my reflection on the pre-youth conference that ok place on the 27th May 2013 in Kuala Lumpur.

Passion, enthusiasm, and determination were perceptible in the way the policy makers I listened to and spoke with today spoke about how painful, frustrating, and humiliating the consequences of inequalities that exist in todays world are.   But does this mean these people have finally heeded to the call of social activists to act now for inequality to be eradicated? Only time will tell as youths will be keeping a keen eye on these people to ensure that all the promises they will make this time around are kept and within the minimum possible time frame.

The biggest risk to the continuity of humanity is inequality, declared UNFPAs deputy Director; Kate Gilmore during an intervention at the Women Deliver pre-youth conference. Conscious of this, it is unavoidably true that, by delivering on their promises to not only reduce but eradicate inequalities and injustices of every nature, policy makers will be contributing to the continuity of humanity. Therefore by failing to deliver for Girls, women, and Youths, policy makers of this generation will be committing a crime that present and future generations will not pardon.

But well, we the youths of this generation wont sit arms folded to see you commit such heinous crimes, because our silence-that of Girls, Women, and Youths is a roar that will degenerate into something worse if not listened to.

Share This Article

There she was; gentle yet vivacious, innocent with eyes filled with millions of dreams merely of 16/17 years. A girl, who in first appearance resembles every other youthful girl out there enjoying her teen life. But she has a story. A story that overnight burdened her with responsibilities, changed her identity and ultimately changed her whole life. She is not only somebody’s daughter, sister or friend. She is a “Mother”. At the verge of time when she herself is in the physical, psychological and social transition she has a child to upbring , feed and guide for. Yes, she is a “Teenage Mother”.

Teenage pregnancy is not a new issue in the context of Nepal. Child marriage embedded within our culture promotes teenage marriage and pregnancy as well in some part of the nation. Teenage pregnancy is one of the reproductive health issues faced by adolescent which deprives a girl and child from a quality of life one could have achieved. According to Nepal Demographic Health Survey 2011, 23%  female give birth before reaching the age 18 years whereas 17% of adolescent women aged15-19 are already mothers or pregnant with first child. This clearly shows the problem scenario but have this issue been given a seriously overlook. I seriously doubt it…

Yes, we have law prohibiting marriage before reaching the appropriate age. But is teenage pregnancy only related with teenage marriage; of course not.  Curiosity towards sex during this period leading to unsafe sexual practice, lack of critical knowledge on family planning, rape and sexual coercion during this period are also some leading factors for teenage pregnancy. Poor curriculum and poorly defined comprehensive sexual education have deprived this teen population to understand and enjoy their reproductive rights though their reach to school level have been increased.  Still the critical knowledge on use of condom and emergency contraceptive pills is very low among this population leading to untimed and early pregnancy.

Teenage pregnancy brings various health as well as social complications which are:

  • Girls who are not physically and mentally prepared for pregnancy and child birth won’t be able to deliver healthy child. This leads to low birth weight child, abnormalities in child, complication for both mother and child and even death.
  • Teenage pregnancy often leads to extreme social and family torture and pressure if the pregnant woman is not married. They are looked upon as disgrace people of the society which leads to cases of suicide or infanticide and mental illness.
  • The termination of teenage pregnancy by unskilled personnel (sudeni, traditional practitioners) often leads to death because of sepsis and post abortion hemorrhage. As teenagers are economically depended they are more likely to undergo illegal and unauthorized abortion leading to major complications.
  • Teenage pregnancy due to rape leads to mental disturbance and depression. Teenage pregnant mother are also prone to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Teenage mother have higher rate of school drop-outs depriving them of proper education to build and shape their lives. This in other hand creates a vicious cycle of poverty and disempowerment among women.

Thus these factors directly hamper the productive life of young girls, deprive her from her fundamental rights and burden her with the extra responsibility without any financial and moral support. But on the other hand boys just pass by with an ease and its girl who have to suffer both physically and mentally.

To mitigate the problem both health and social structure must be assessed and addressed:

  • Early marriage/ teenage marriage should be strongly prohibited strengthening and implementing the policy against it.
  • If early marriage then postpone the first child till mother is matured enough.
  • Sex education and knowledge about family planning should be started from school level.
  • Emergency Contraceptive pills should be easily accessible and available.
  • Teen friendly reproductive health services (including abortion services) should be enhanced and promoted in the country.
  • Matters of sex and pregnancy should not be dealt as taboos. It should be clearly discussed in family as well as in school/ colleges.
  • Strong formulation and implementation of laws against sexual violence, incest and rape
  •  Stigma and discrimination related with teenage pregnancy from family and society as well as service provider level should be eliminated as far as possible.


Thus teenage pregnancy is not the problem of an individual girl. It affects population dynamics, economic growth and women empowerment affecting nation as a whole. It is not just “her problem”.





Categories: Child Marriage
Share This Article
10 tips - all

I have seen this post circulate on Facebook and loved its message. I apologizing for not crediting it since I am not sure who put it together. There is absolutely no way to sugar coat the rape stories that are happening today and we should keep doing our great work loud and proud until we no longer hear about these savage crimes happening in our world. It is about time we teach our fellow humans NOT TO RAPE. Full Stop.

Share This Article

Am a teen, so what,

Truth is, am happy am a teen,

But even at that,

Some say I am beautiful (I agree)

They say am smart (well that’s me)

Others say am intelligent (got that from my dad)

They say am gorgeous (you need to see my mum)

Others say am the future that I have the world to save (what an enormous responsibility)

Well the good thing is am a teen and I’m not kidding around.

I need an answer. Why should I be given the role of a mother when I have better responsibilities? The answer to this question is very simple. It’s dumb! Really dumb, for anyone to try to make me not enjoy my teenage hood because it’s a blessing. My teenage hood is a time I have, to use to learn how to build my capacity and not to start training children.

We are the leaders of tomorrow and should not  let our dreams go down the drain.

When we are doggedly focused we will surpass the earth

Wisdom is profitable to direct.

Categories: Child Marriage
Share This Article
six year old

I once read a book in high school involving a sequence of events that highlighted a certain detective’s fight against sexual offenders interested in the participation of child as sexual objects physically while they filmed the act and distributed it to the black market. At one time, the detective watched a video where this poor little girl was cajoled into entering the pool or hot tub with this man, where he did things to her, and subsequently ended her life – while still in the water with him. That is how I recalled that book. And I pitied the detective. I felt so sorry that he had to see that and he was unshaken. I felt sorry for him that he’d spent years of his career seeing things like that as a pice of his soul chipped away when he saw young, innocent 6 years old being used, abused and murdered for some pervert’s pleasure and entertainment.

The possession of and distribution of child pornography is a criminal offense, so says the World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

The child is groomed, in some instances to deliberately befriend and establishing an emotional connection with the child, to lowering their inhibitions, preparing them for the sexual activity to come. Exploiting their innocence. Damaging them, maybe irrevocably.

In Nigeria, it is the common belief that the sexual exploitation of a child, or at least a minor is often done in the hands of someone the child knows well, or at least, someone with access to the child without the reservations of the family. What’s worse, it is sometimes seen as the norm.
When I was a little girl, my best friend Anna and I knew this man who would always try to grab us and take us inside as a way of playing with us. He never caught me, but Anna did mention that the one time he drag her to his room, he tried to touch where she usually used to go to the bathroom to pee. We never thought anything of it; we even thought he was a bit strange, playing with little girls almost twenty years older than he was. Now that I think about it, if I were Anna’s mom, that guy would be missing the part of his body his kids would come out from.

In a country where some cultures have no problem with marrying still developing young girls, its not hard to find things like this happening. I am just thankful that we were somewhat protected (believe it or not) and weren’t exposed to worse violations.

The fact was, we didn’t know any better. And I am glad that more twisted things didn’t happen. But every day, one hears news about some poor girl being molested and abused by her father, or uncle or cousin and nothing being done about it. In Nigeria, I’m sure if women compared notes about growing up and the role of sex was assessed, we’d be really shocked about the similarities we had and forgot about.

Sometimes…playing isn’t just playing. Man has a dark side to them. And I hope our children never get to see the extent of which the darkness can reach. If they do, what innocence would we find, then.

Share This Article

The Gulabi gang is a group of women vigilantes active across North India. It is named after the pink saris worn by its members. The group was founded as a response to widespread domestic abuse and other violence against women. Gulabis visit abusive husbands and beat them with bamboo sticks. In 2008, they stormed an electricity office and forced officials to restore the power they had cut to extract bribes. The Gulabis have also stopped child marriages and protested dowry and female illiteracy.


Share This Article

Talking about young people in the part of the world where I come is already a sensitive issue and adding ‘rights’ which is another very explosive issue to this makes advocacy for the placing of youth rights at the heart of development a very difficult but not an impossible task. Behind these words lies the fears, doubts, and optimism of a participant at the just ended International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)-Beyond 2014 Global youth Forum (GYF) which held from the 4th to the 6th December 2012.They are also the words that come to my mind whenever I think about this forum and the impact its outcomes will have on the future of young people and therefore our world as a whole. The fruits of the optimism raised and the hopes re-enkindled by the ICPD-Beyond 2014 GYF not only in the young persons that attended this event but above all in the lives of the millions of young persons that are marginalized, down trodden, and persecuted because of their gender, age, political choices, and sexual orientation, will no doubt become reality as youths irrespective of their social status, religious beliefs, and gender have been empowered and energized by this forum. With most of the recommendations from the ICPD-Beyond 2014 GYF urging governments, international bodies, and civil societies to recognize the rights of all young persons especially the marginalized, suffering and persecuted(the girl child, sexual minorities, rural dwellers, the uneducated) and establish an enabling environment for the potentials of every young person to be unleashed and his/her dreams fulfilled, the forum is ended but has opened an avenue for youths to claim what is theirs and take their places in decision making cycles in their various countries. Enlightened, empowered, and inspired by the passion and enthusiasm I witnessed in Bali, the following words came to my mind in the evening of the 6th of December as the forum ended: ‘What happens when it comes time to part? Well you know how when you’re listening to music from another room and you’re singing along, because it’s a tune you really love, when the door closes, or a train passes, and you can’t hear the music anymore, but you sing along anyway?’ Just like the song described in this scene from the movie, ‘Music from Another Room’, the journey towards achieving youths rights might have begun long ago, Bali marked a new beginning in this fight for the rights of young people in all their diversity to be recognized and respected in the society where they live.

Share This Article

Another day has come and gone over Bali ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum.But as days come and go, the discussion intensifies and young people are more demanding to their governments, religious and traditional authorities, parents, and society at large.

Universal access to education,inclusive education, relevant education, quality education ,financing and partnerships, as well as ccomprehensive sexuality education were identified by participants at the ICPD beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum participants as being vital for comprehensive education to become a reality in our world and were thus recommended in that other for discussion by the United Nations and possible inclusion in its post-2015 international  development agenda.

Transitions to decent work, and famiies,youth Rights and well being are the themes which were on the discussion table today.These being of course issues which are relevant to every young person irrespective of  where he/she hails, the debate in the plenary was so intense and continued into the various work groups.

During the plenary on transitions to decent employment, it was revealed by the International Labour Organisation’s representative that we now have the highest number of unemployed youths that the world has ever. Also, during this plenary it was disclosed that 1 in 9 young workers in Africa are in the informal sector, 4 out of 10 young workers are working on a temporary basis, and 5 in 10 low paid persons are youths.

Productivity, fairness, and rewarding are the major characteristics of a decent job as defined by the International Labour Organisation(ILO). If one is to go by this definition, one will have no choice but agree with the above statistics. One other area in which there was total agree is on the fact that  stronger families, respect of  youth rights, and the well being of youths are the basis for any society and so for  a world at peace with itself, there was need for these issues to be tackled with maximum care.

According to Mr.Anatole Makosso, the president to the conference of African youth ministers and youth minister of Congo Brazzaville, there exist three reasons for governments to carefully consider the above mentioned issues and ensure that the needs of youths are met: They are the majority, they are the future, they will not identify with any decisions taken without them.

Another day is come and gone,  and the desire for action by youths on the part of their governments has not faultered Youths want to make the Bali declaration not only a declaration but a platform for action. Hear our voices!

Share This Article

What a long awaited and historic day for mankind has today being. The ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum was officially opened today. In the presence of   close to a thousand participants, Indonesian officials, and  representatives of governments the world over, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s executive Director , in his speech  decried the  situation in which so many young people, especially those in the global south, live in before pointing  out the importance of this event, and then inviting  representatives of governments and those he termed “Seniors” to look  at the  young people around them and  challenge  how they  relate to them, and then think of how they can release  the potentials of these young people.

Further setting the context of the Bali ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum, the Indonesian minister for people’s welfare, declared that: we believe that a meaningful dialogue is necessary on the means and ways of engaging young people to release their potential. He further emphasized that , young people need to understand the values of life that will make them  stay healthy, be educated, foster family life, actively participate in building the  world they have always dreamed of.

Staying healthy, comprehensive education, transition to  decent work for youth, Families, youth rights and well being, leadership and meaningful youth participation, and realizing youth rights are the themes which will be discussed and recommendations made by the over 650 participants for  discussion and adoption  by the UN member states as one of its post-2015 agenda.


Staying healthy and comprehensive education were tackled today in discussion groups (world Cafés) and recommendations made on the former. Access to data, putting in place of an enabling environment for youths by governments, religious and traditional authorities, access to   quality, affordable, and comprehensive health services, and finally  the abolition of laws and policies that   that hinder youth empowerment   are the recommendations that came out from the 15 sort of work groups that brainstormed on this topic. The recommendations on the comprehensive education will be presented  tomorrow, Wednesday December 5th 2012.

It should be noted that the above recommendations were arrived at by participants including representatives of governments, UN agencies, and civil society in a very interactive, safe, and open environment  after attending the plenary session that addressed  the issue of staying healthy for a young person. At this plenary Advocate for Youth’s Meredith Waters acting in her capacity as young person commentator for this theme, declared amid thunderous applause from the audience  that: the Global Youth Forum is a great way to start but not enough. Dr Nafsia Mboi, Indonesian minister of health, answering to questions from the participants declared to conclude the plenary that: Every person, I repeat every person including young people has the right to health.

Good as the speeches may be, world leaders should be conscious that young people are tired of speeches and want to see concrete actions being taken solve the pile of problems in which young people from all part of our beloved world are drowning. World leaders! Take action now or be fired! We are ready for the fight and I assure you we will always out power you; for we are the majority.

Share This Article

On November 29, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—the government’s lead agency delivering foreign assistance to more than 100 countries around the world—officially launched its first-ever Youth in Development Policy. The policy, which has been posted on the USAID website since the beginning of November, provides the agency with important guidance recognizing young people as a driving force in global development efforts.

Nearly two years in the making, the policy seeks to strengthen youth programming, participation, and partnership while mainstreaming and integrating young people throughout all of the agency’s policies and programs. Such mainstreaming is critical because, while USAID supports some youth-focused programming, in the health sector for example, these efforts are often small-scale, short-term pilot projects that are limited in reach.  In addition, broader initiatives that should be addressing young people’s needs do not necessarily do so unless there are youth champions within the agency or among implementing agencies who seek to proactively prioritize youth within the programming.

This policy has the potential to impact real change on the ground for young people by systematically integrating and mainstreaming youth while also engaging them in policy decisions. Whether it’s providing critical family planning information and services; promoting democracy, human rights, and gender equality; increasing employment and civic engagement; or delivering life-saving assistance following humanitarian disasters, every facet of USAID’s development agenda could (and in my opinion, should) include youth as a key component.  In order to achieve this, the policy includes seven key principles:

  • Recognize that youth participation is vital for effective programs;
  • Invest in assets that build youth resilience;
  • Account for youth differences and commonalities;
  • Create second chance opportunities;
  • Involve and support mentors, families, and communities;
  • Pursue gender equality; and
  • Embrace innovation and technology by and for youth.

The fact that there exists a youth policy at all, let alone such a multifaceted one, is certainly commendable.  Furthermore, the extent to which it highlights young people’s sexual and reproductive health needs, including the prevention of unintended pregnancies, early marriage, and gender-based violence, is a positive development given the fundamental role sexual and reproductive health plays in all aspects of U.S. foreign policy.  In addition to strong language on health, the policy also explicitly recognizes the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, as well as the importance of pursuing gender equality and connecting with hard-to-reach populations, including young migrants and refugees, out-of-school and street youth, rural youth, married adolescents, and young people with disabilities.

No government policy is perfect, however.  While this policy has made strides in promoting a more holistic and positive approach to youth, it lacks the teeth required to achieve its full potential.  No additional funding is set aside to implement it and no mandate is given requiring the agency’s overseas missions to follow it, leaving it largely up to the discretion of individual missions and staff to decide if they have the time or interest in prioritizing youth.  Without such mechanisms in place, the policy is just a piece of paper sitting on a shelf.  In order to bring it to life, we need to get past this idea that doing youth work is too hard, that young people are too difficult to work with, don’t care, aren’t engaged, or don’t have the knowledge or experience to make change.

We cannot continue to let governments and others perpetuate the fear-based notion that, left unaddressed, youth will wreak havoc on communities and nations.  We must remember that young people do not instigate civil strife and conflict; weak political systems do. Young people do not promote extremist ideologies; oppressive government policies do.  Young people do not fuel crime sprees; inequitable distribution of resources and economic stagnation do. Young people are not the problem, they are the solution.

They have proven that they are resilient, innovative, and powerful agents of change who can achieve significant policy advancements when they work in conjunction with local, national, and regional stakeholders.  Nepalese youth activists supported by Advocates for Youth and our local partner, YUWA, have successfully lobbied government officials to change Nepal’s national sex education curriculum to better reflect the needs of youth.  After years of effort, Advocates’ youth council in Nigeria, Education as a Vaccine (EVA), won its campaign to have the Federal Ministry of Health create a stand-alone budget line in the national health sector budget that is specifically dedicated to adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health funding.  And, the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) is working with the World Health Organization to develop guidelines for adolescents living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries.  Involving young people and key stakeholders in their communities in these processes not only leads to innovative programs, it also increases success rates, while further helping young people build skills in communication, negotiation, and civic participation.

While young people have made tremendous progress in advancing their rights, they cannot and should not do it alone.  National governments and the entire international community must not only recognize the rights of youth and respect them as equal partners and rights-holders, but they also have a responsibility to prioritize youth within all their development policies and programs.  The USAID Youth in Development policy is one step in the right direction.

With nearly half the world’s population under the age of 25, a government policy recognizing the pivotal role young people play in the development of their communities, their nations, and the world is long overdue.  The current and future direction of this planet will largely depend on how well we educate, empower, and engage the largest generation of young people in history.  In no area is this of more paramount importance than in the realm of sexual and reproductive health and rights, where education, health, self-determination, and human rights intersect to create the foundations for healthy decision-making.

Share This Article

Nowadays we are surrounded by all sorts of BIG PROBLEMS. Global warming, food security, population growth, and you name it. One of these BIG PROBLEMS is child marriage. Although hard to believe, today, all regions around the world still have countries with areas where early marriage is prevalent, and it is most pronounced in South Asia and West Africa. In Bangladesh, India, Mali, and Nepal, at least half of all women currently ages 20 to 24 were married by age 18, according to Demographic and Health Survey data. In certain regions of Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, and Nigeria, at least 40 percent of these women were married before age 15. If current patterns continue during the next decade, more than 100 million girls will be married before the age of 18, according to a Population Council analysis of the UN. Serve consequences can be created by child marriages: drop out of school, early pregnancy, obstetric fistula, maternal mortality, HIV, continued poverty, abuse, attempted suicide, and a lot of others. Although BIG SOLUTIONS such as raise awareness of rights to girls globally and leverage US foreign aid to have countries change their laws can be used to address these BIGT PROBLEMS, sometimes small solutions also matter.

One BIG SOLUTION to the issue of child marriage is educating the girls, however, it is really costly to improve the education from top to down since given the fact that in some countries girls are not valued and governmental forces may not be effective. Then what can we do to keep girls in schools and educate them for late marriage? Small solutions work at these kinds of settings—give girls uniforms! A study conducted in Sub-Sahara Africa finds that teenage pregnancy rates in the schools where uniforms were offered fell from 14% to 11% after a year—for every three girls who stayed in school because of the free uniform, two delay their first pregnancy. Also, another study finds that although child marriage rate is high in some African countries due to a belief of having sex with young girls is a solution to HIV infections, if girls are told the true of the myth of “Sugar Daddies” (the facts of those old men who give girls money to have sex and “want” to marry them are mostly HIV positive), there could be a sharp drop in this kind of child marriage and early sex.

So, while sometimes BIG SOLUTIONS which come from top to down tend to be costly and ineffective, small solutions which from down to top and especially in the case of child marriage—small solutions from teenage girls really matter. We cannot push for change unless we understand the demand of young people. So let’s give the youth their voices and solve BIG PROBLEMS through small solutions.

Categories: Child Marriage
Share This Article

by Deb Hauser
President, Advocates for Youth

Advocates for Youth congratulates President Barack Obama on his historic reelection. We also celebrate the amazing role that young people played within his administration and his reelection, and we recognize the growing power of youth to drive social and cultural change for a better world. Young people represented approximately 19 percent of the electorate yesterday—a larger percentage even than in 2008!

In the years ahead, we call on President Obama to stand with us in recognition of every young person’s right to honest sexual health education, safe and affordable sexual health services, and an equity of social, educational, and economic opportunity – the type of opportunity that builds healthy lives and strong communities.


Share This Article

Early marriage is one of the key issues affecting female children between the ages of 9-17. These occur mostly in the northern part of Nigeria where they believe a child’s first menstrual period should be in the husband’s house. In some cases, these girls are even given out before they were born to a man old enough to be their father.  Could this be poverty or should I say culture? Some cultural practices have led us astray, causing harm to young people who are being fed with these lies. Making the girl child see herself like a baby making factory but funny enough they are still born into abject poverty.

What would u call these??

Will you tell me a girl child does not have a right over her own life?? Only if they can see better, educating and giving children equal right to life, not selling her out at a tender age where she still falls under the dependency age. Early marriage had generally affected girl child in all areas: educationally, morally and physically. Most of these kids end up having Visio-Vaginal Fistula (VVF). Most part of the northern Nigeria practice early marriage not putting the decision of the girl into consideration, and all they do is push them out for one reason or the other; forgetting that they have not got any experience to live a marital life. Marrying a girl of twelve or fourteen years old is impolite to both side, a girl that have not been expose to know what life is all about.

I can see a howling future,  a smear  futures, a child became a mother at the age of 13, her name is zainab  she get married to old man of 40 years and she is the third  wives , she was in the mixed of her parent , but they call  her a rival. When she was pregnant the husband doesn’t have the means of taking care of them, financially, feeding and health. She was there suffering at a time she was in labor it was difficult for her to put to birth. Why? Because she is too small to put to birth, and her pelvic are small, so that the baby can pass through her private part, the doctor decided to operate on her. That was how she put to birth and after that she didn’t have the means of taking care of her baby, likewise the husband too.  She was there suffering and later decided to be selling pure water, hawking one things or the other.

*****All these difficulty she has faced with are due to the fact that she’s lacking good education which could have otherwise earned a good future to make her financially dependent, while having the opportunity to well mingle with people. *****

******lack of education, cannot make her blamed quickly to hose that are educated and she cannot also mingle herself with her educated peers.  So she can’t afford good education and health care for her baby for her Husband he doesn’t have the mains for that he is doing okada man who doesn’t really care about her.

This is total mistake which people do in life and it is known as child abuse in my opinion   Parent should stop given out their children out to get married at an early age because it might affects their future advance…

Share This Article


Boom. The International Youth Leadership Council is looking for college students in the DC metro area to apply to be new council members to start this January.

Need some background?

Advocates for Youth sponsors a project called the International Youth Leadership Council (IYLC), which is designed to develop youth leaders in the areas of international sexual and reproductive health and rights, abortion access, global HIV and AIDS, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and other sexual orientation and gender identity rights. The Council currently consists of seven members who are a diverse group of young people with backgrounds from around the world.  Members attend colleges or universities in the Washington, DC Metro area.


IYLC members work with the staff of the Policy Department and The Youth Activist Network to increase U.S. support and leadership for improving young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights globally and domestically. As members of the council, they develop an understanding of a broad range of issues, including international family planning; maternal health and adolescent maternal mortality; gender inequality; harmful traditional practices, such as child marriage; HIV and AIDS; and LGBT rights. They in turn become familiar with related U.S. domestic and foreign policy, and international agreements that address youth sexual and reproductive health and rights.


Throughout the school year, council members serve as youth educators, advocates, and spokespeople on sexual and reproductive health issues and polices that affect young people around the world. They organize campus events, utilize online and traditional media outlets, conduct educational workshops, attend conferences, and lobby policy makers at the national and international level.

To Summarize:
-opportunities to shape policy from the local to international level

-resources to mobilize your communities

-meet some pretty fantastic people

-be fancy

Be a part of a movement to make youth voices heard!

Apply Now!


Share This Article

Over the years attention has been paid to reduce violence against human beings,however children have remained vulnerable to early marriages and victims of female genital mutilation. International donors have opted to fight the vice but less has been achieved. In many African cultures specifically in Kenya where we have over 4o tribes,FGM and early marriages have been maintained in the interior villages where girls living in town centers taken upcountry to undergo the vice. Parents have remained ignorant despite the country rules to curb the vice.

As we embark in fighting the violence through education of the parents to ensure the reduction of violence against young girls,promote their education and ensure they are treated equally,join our campaign in Kenya and make a change to girl child. Make your contribution and your voice will be aired.

Categories: Child Marriage
Share This Article

 Child marriage refers to any of a child younger than 18 years in Africa and South Asia it is common, and in Nigeria most especially     in the Northern par t of Nigeria, where children at the age of 13/ 14 are marriage, mostly as a result of traditional or religious believes. Some of the effect or disadvantage of child marriage include the child level of education due to early marriages thus exposure to early sexual debut that becomes a very big   risk to their life, because their reproductive organs are not fully developed to withstand   it. Some of the medical complications includes, the girls experience obstructed labor due to the small pelvic size which results to Vaginal Fistula (VVF). The leakage of urine and faces through the vagina which could lead to death, in some case some of the girl are forsaken by the husband, left alone to face a predicament they were not responsible for in the first place…  Young married girls are at the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, since there is likehoold that they would have been screened. furthermore, they are more likely to experience domestic violence due to the fact that they are under age before going into marriage, and the hold decision are mad by their husband .It was discovered that the more girls are been educated the more the economic value increases, The girl child is very important in our society and should be treated in a way that will benefit both you and I.  Let’s give this information to those who thinks the girl has no importance because the girl child is the heart of the home and should be giving full rights to education to build up a good home and also be useful to the society and have a better generation.

Share This Article

As a child, I was sexually abused by a male adult relative who was close to my family at that time. I was just 5 years old and I remember this went on till I was about age 10. It wasn’t just one male adult relative. It was an unpleasant experience. It was horrific. It always happened in the dark of the night. There was no one to call out to. Even when I thought of telling my parents, I didn’t trust that they would handle it in a way that would lead to a peaceful coexistence, since the perpetrator was a close family member and it was sex related; how could I have communicated that? I couldn’t even dare!

He would wake me up from sleep and make me give him a blow job. Other times, he would try to have sex with me but he never tried to penetrate me because I was too young. He never stopped trying though. I remember how sometimes he would ejaculate on me. I was too young to understand or comprehend what was going on. The act didn’t feel right though but I just never knew standing up for myself was an option.

I became very insecure as a teenager because I later found out that what had happened was called “child abuse/sexual abuse” and it really hurt me so bad because at the time I was defenseless and helpless. The worse could have happened. What if he had infected me with HIV or an STI or something….?

I am sharing this today because it’s the International Day of the Girl and I believe in the vision of promoting the rights of the girl child. It is everyone’s responsibility! Too many girls out there are being violated either by being forced into child marriage by family members; being sexually abused by close relatives like I was or strangers; or even being denied access to education just because they are girls.

It’s actually more complicated because the girls hardly report cases of abuse and I guess that’s why we have very little data on these cases. Statistics on child marriage show that“one in seven girls will be forced to marry by the age of 15. And, if child marriage continues at its current rate, 100 million more girls will be married in the next decade.” We honestly can’t afford to let that happen. Not in this generation, not in our time.

We must speak up to protect the right and preserve the lives of girls all around the world. The role women play in the development of every society can’t be overemphasized. Imagine if women like Hilary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Chimamanda Adichie, Tambisa Moyo and Ngozi Okonjo Iweala were married off as child brides? It doesn’t look right in your mind, right? My point exactly! These women have continually proven to be key agents for progressive change in our society. Why don’t we give this generation of girls the chance to become productive citizens and catalysts of change in the world?

Every form of child abuse is a human rights violation.

As the world celebrates the girl child today, let us all actively commit to empowering girls around our communities by supporting girls to go to school; providing them with the adequate information they need to protect themselves from abuse; or starting up a conversation about the need to promote equal access to education.

Share This Article

Click to watch: Fundamental Human Rights.

Every day, governments all over the world violate the fundamental human rights of millions of women. The Center for Reproductive Rights fights on the front lines every day to beat back these assaults — and Meryl Streep, Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler, Billy Crudup, Audra McDonald, and many more are standing beside us in this call to action in the global battle for reproductive freedom.

Share This Article

Today, October 11, marks the FIRST-ever International Day of the Girl. Recognized by the United Nations, governments, communities, and girls around the world, the Day of the Girl is about highlighting, celebrating, discussing, and advancing young women’s and girls’ lives and opportunities across the globe.

While I would argue that every day should be about honoring young women and girls who are standing up to injustice and oppression, having the entire world mobilize around one day is extremely powerful. It unites communities in raising awareness of issues uniquely facing young women and girls. It engages families in discussions about the value of their daughters. It forces governments to pay attention and review their policies. And it prompts media outlets to report on human rights abuses committed against brave young girls.

–Girls like Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan. This inspirational 14-year-old dared to stand up to the Taliban, spending the last three years writing the Diary of a Pakistani schoolgirl to chronicle her fight for the right of girls to go to school. She refused to remain silent despite repeated threats and is now fighting for her life as a result of an assassination attempt by the Taliban. She was widely hailed in Pakistan for her outspokenness earning her Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize last year, and this week, she has earned the respect and admiration of millions of people around the world who have just recently learned of her bravery.

–Girls like Marietou from Senegal. At the age of 15, Marietou began speaking out against domestic violence in her community. She started with her local district chief and when he ignored her, she interrupted Friday prayers in her mosque to raise attention to the epidemic. Because of her courageous act to out her stepfather as an abuser, her imam decided to center his teachings during the next two Friday prayers on Islam’s opposition to domestic violence, her community held a forum, a law was passed–the Marietou Law–outlawing domestic violence, and a human rights champion emerged.

–And girls like Habibata, Hawa, Mariem, Fatimetou, and Khadjetou. These are just a few of the amazing young women I had the privilege of working with as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mauritania, West Africa. I helped run an after-school girls’ mentoring center at my town’s high school. Over two years, we reached over 100 girls ages 12-24 with important lessons on sexual and reproductive health, human rights, education, violence against women, and delaying marriage and childbirth. It was by far the most important work I would do in a country where it was not uncommon for girls as young as 12 to be married off to much older men, putting them at risk of early pregnancy, obstructed labor, HIV/AIDS and other STIs, dropping out of school, and continuing the perpetual cycle of poverty.

In fact, the UN has chosen the issue of child marriage as the theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl. Why?

–Because every three seconds, a girl under the age of 18 becomes a child bride.

–Because one in seven girls will be forced to marry by the age of 15.

–Because it prevents more than 10 million girls a year from being able to reach their full potential and makes it harder for families, communities, and countries to escape poverty.

–Because if child marriage continues at its current rate, 100 million more girls will be married in the next decade.

–And because child marriage is, simply put, a human rights violation.

Still not convinced? Watch this National Geographic video. Then watch it again, this time with your friends and family. Have a discussion about it. Then take action. Tweet about it using the hashtags #dayofthegirl and #endchildmarriage. Use your Facebook account to raise awareness. Donate to a girl- or woman-led organization. And then sign our petition asking Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to use her power to increase political and financial investments from the US government so we can reach vulnerable girls to end child marriage and support married adolescents. Yesterday, she announced several new private sector commitments to address child marriage and girls’ education. But, we can, and must do more!

And let’s all celebrate the fierce young women and girls in our lives today. And every day! Happy International Day of the Girl!


Share This Article

In Cameroon, taxis and other public transport have become the place where Cameroonians most enjoy discussing political and social issues. And so it happened a few weeks ago that I boarded a Taxi whose driver did not stop telling people of the disgust he had for parents who send their girls to school.

At 14, when my daughter passes her BEPC(GCE o level), I send her to school for two more years to go and ‘waste time’ so that she reaches 16 and I give her out to a man for marriage. No girl in my home aged 16! Her husband’s home is where she belongs’, said the driver proudly with the tone of his voice revealing how convinced he was of what he had just said.

I looked at him with anger and then thought of the many girls whose lives have been ruined by selfish and inconsiderate decisions taken by their parents to get them out of school and ‘ hand them over’ to their so-called husbands. Furious at the sayings of the driver, I could not help but think about Linda (not her real name), whom I met some years back.

Linda, like 36% of girls in Cameroon, was a victim of child marriage (UNICEF). She hails from one of Cameroon’s rural communities, which account 23% of the cases of forced marriages in the country (UNICEF). Linda dropped out of school in form three (third year of secondary school) 10 years ago following pressure from her parents to marry a man, 20 years older than her, and whom she had never met. Bowing to her parents’ pressure she thus forfeited her rights to education, her rights to choose to marry whom she loves, and her rights as a child.


Having no choice in the face of this decision taken by her parents, at 15, Linda’s dreams of becoming a Doctor were thus shattered. Today, Linda is 25 , has 3 children whose upkeep is sole dependent her, has become the bread winner for her household, and regrets having giving in to the pressure mounted on her by her parents to get married to this man for whom she has become a child bearing instrument and sole provider.

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that marriage should be ‘entered only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses’. Going by this definition and taking into consideration the stands of the Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which holds that children below 18 years should not be allowed to get married because they do not have full maturity and capacity to act, one will have every reason to stand against child marriages-any union in this circumstances will be considered as forced marriage.

But according to Plan International, an international Non Governmental Organization (NGO), ten million girls under the age of 18 marry each year. Still not moved? The above figure implies that:
• 833,333 girls under 18 marry each month
• 192,307 girls under 18 marry each week
• 27,397 girls under 18 marry each day
• 19 girls under 18 marry each every minute
• Around 1 girl under 18 marries every three seconds

Despite the fact that all sub-Saharan African countries (except Somalia) are signatories to the Charter on Rights of a Child, Sub-Saharan Africa has the second highest rate of early and forced marriage (38%) according to statistics from the above mentioned NGO . 14.3 million girls in this region are married before they reach 18. Studies show that the average age of marriage in this region remains among the world’s lowest and the percentage of adolescent mothers the world’s highest.


In Cameroon, child marriage is most prevalent in rural areas, where poverty , traditions, ignorance of the law, and illiteracy still reign supreme . These include traditional, religious and cultural practices which continue to treat women as commodities and inferior beings that have little or no role to play in their communities and are good only for the kitchen.

Also, the prevailing poverty in rural areas makes the girl the only realistic potential source of income to parents. They thus arrange marriages for these girls and charge a bride price that will enable them buy food, and other household commodities. This may also be to pay back money borrowed by a parent who cannot repay and so gives the daughter in the place of payment.


The negative effects of early marriage in my community go beyond just the girls concerned and affect the children they give birth to. Thus low weight babies and a high rate of morbidity among children born by girls in forced marriages is very common.

Young married girls are more often than not victims of Ve sico Vaginal Fistula (VVF). VVF is incontinence of the bladder which allows the patient to pass urine indiscriminately. VVF in arises in cases of forced marriages because of the very tender age and immaturity of the sexual organs of the girls who are forced into these unions.

Also , young married girls are exposed to: mental health effects, the hazards of contracting HIV/AIDS and STIs from their older husbands and above all to unwanted pregnancies, Premature births, and other pregnancy-related complications which at times take away the lives of these young girls. In fact, in low and middle income countries, childbirth is the #1 killer of young women between ages 15 and 19.


I very much agree that political will, the voting of laws that prohibit child marriage, the equitable distribution of resources to its citizens to mitigate the effects of poverty and reduce illiteracy are needed to put an end to child marriages in Cameroon. But I am more than convinced that a more accessible, affordable, conducive, and above all inclusive educational system is needed to effectively fight against forced marriages

The educational system in rural areas is a great push factor for early marriages in Cameroon. Gender based violence(GBV), poor infrastructure, gender bias teaching material(text books), cultural practices which discourage parents from fully investing on the education of women, and a non-conducive learning environment are all motivating factors for girls to drop out of school. Hailing from a rural community, I have observed that most girls who drop out of school have marriage as a main option. Thus, education in rural communities should be made not only more accessible and efficient but also more welcoming to girls.

To guard against the consequences of child marriage, girls must be protected against traditional and religious practices that enslaves and traumatizes them. So that, unlike Linda who is today a roadside roasted maize seller, they all achieve their dreams of greatness in this world. All girls have the right to live happy and fulfilled lives, don’t they?

Share This Article

     Violence against women is everywhere, it can be found in every culture and can be found in every corner of the world. Unfortunately, in a much more developed world today, one in three women is subject to gender-based violence. In the movie named “From Fear to Freedom: Ending Violence against Women” produced by WLP, it clearly shows the culture behind this unfair violence against women.
     Even though the ration one in three is kind of hard to believe since someone may argue that how could this happen in a world with laws, justice and education, however, this is true and it is true no matter in Asia or America, and this is true and it is experienced by women in our everyday life. I used to hear a saying that being a girl is subjecting to higher risk, and I definitely believe this is true. Even though for me, a college-educated girl, thing such as child marriage or human trafficking are not possible, however, I still feel inferior in the society and experience the violence, a kind of psychological violence against women. Violence against women can be psychological and can take the verbal form. It seems that the society approves guys to judge our appearances and bodies and say some dirty things about our bodies without feeling shame. When I was spending my summer back home, I was wearing a T-shirt and short shorts. And then when I walked pass a cab, the diver in it looked at my breast directly and said something dirty about it near my ears. I was so scared and when I told this to my mom, she blamed me and said I should not wear the T-shirt again. Even though the man hurt me, society seemed to approve it and I myself became the one to be blamed. This kind of psychological assault is everywhere and it hurts. One of my friend entered a model competition, she was forced to be depicted as sexual and under her picture (online), there were random guys chatting dirty thing such as they wanted to have sex with her. And when she got scared, the society just blamed her again that this was her fault to enter this competition.

     So violence against women is culturally approved since women are viewed as weaker people and sometimes women are even viewed as bad people so that violence against women is OK. In almost every culture around the world, men are viewed as powerful and women are just one of men’s subject. Since women need men to raise them, so that when men are not feeling good, they can transfer their bad mood to women by violence. The power and gender identity determines this tragedy. I always hear people talking DV in the way that since the women enjoy their husbands’ money so that they should not blame their husbands for DV. Women, no matter what we do, are viewed as inferior. There was one woman in the movie said that she have seen women with PhD still behaved inferior in the relationship. This is so true since we are socially defined as inferior. Even though my parents give me the chance to study in the U.S. and they pay for my education, however, my parents’ goal for me is not asking me to be powerful but want me to have more leverage to find a good man and just rely on him. They got so angry when I told them that I am right now just want to focus on my study and career and do not want a boyfriend.

     Besides women are culturally viewed as inferior, women who suffered from violence are also subject to the deadly science of the social justice system. Since most DV comes from their family members, most of time their husbands, societies of most time ignore and do not believe DV as crimes. 

     From my point of view, stop violence against women should be done by empowering women. Women should be educated and they should have bigger economic independence since economic independence gives women higher leverage in relationship. Also, in order to stop the violence, not only women should be educated, however, men should also be educated. Men should understand that women are not inferior and women are not men’s goods.

Share This Article

Fati, a pregnant 15 year old is rushed on a motorcycle to the nearest clinic 10km from her house. She is the third wife of Ahmed. She arrives at the clinic closely followed by her husband on another motorcycle. The doctor on duty just left the hospital after receiving an emergency call. Fati already experiencing labour is in so much pain, and the nurse on seat seems to be doing nothing about it.
Ahmed: Won’t you attend to my wife?
Nurse: You need to deposit some money.
Ahmed: How much is it, please just attend to her I will pay you.
Ahmed in desperation gives her a lot of money. Fati is then taken to the labour ward where she struggles to preserve her life and that of her unborn child. The nurses blame her for getting married so early. Fati finally gives birth to a still born and develops complications. She had to be connected with a pipe to a bucket. She had VVF.
Being his youngest and most amorous wife, he spends a lot to resuscitate her health which was gradually becoming worse by the day. Finally, she is discharged, on getting home, the other wives accuse her of killing her child and her husband shuts the door against her, goes in to bring her things and drives her away from his house back to her parents. Unknown to her, as a result of her husband’s taste for and escapades with women, he had infected her with HIV. Fati goes back to her parents in shame; her baby dead, complications during and after childbirth, thrown out of the matrimonial home she was forced into, and later discovers her worst nightmare, HIV, while trying to pick up the remaining pieces of her life and move on.
So much for this 15 year old girl, what would you do, were you to be in her shoes? Teenage girls are more vulnerable than older women because of certain factors like; immature reproductive tract, poverty, mal nutrition, child marriage, and the issue of gender inequalities which can be detrimental to the health of a pregnant teenager. Think about it.

Share This Article

As a 25-year-old young woman living in Namibia, it really upsets me that girls are still forced to marry against their will. I know there is culture in the world but the culture of parents forcing girls to get married should end. Knowing that there is HIV in the world and that those types of things are happening — it’s sad to all of us young people. If we talk of rights for all, then girls should have their right to choose their husband when they are ready.

I know that in Africa we are poor but that should not make it okay for our parents to choose a husband for us. Before they do that, people should always think of the happiness of that young person. How does a young person enjoy that marriage when the girl cannot even ask the husband to go for an HIV test? Men treat their young wives with no care and respect because they know they can always replace her with a new one. This will only end if we all hold hands together to fight this child marriage and support the young people who are disowned by their family because they refuse to marry a man who has been chosen for them.

There are a lot of young people who do not have families anymore because of being disowned by their family. They might not have their biological family but we are all there as one big family that will stand for each other no matter what. I am proudly writing this story because I managed to walk away from the marriage people wanted me to go in. I could not stand letting myself get married against my will and in my case, I hated the reason that people used that I should get married — because I am infected by HIV. I made it clear to everyone that with my HIV, I still have my full rights and I am still the driver of my own life no matter what. Young people, we should not let anyone drive our own life because then we will be unhappy for the rest of our lives.

Young people, seek for help and support were you can get it. Some people might not care about how we feel or what we want but there are those who are willing to help and support us. Life can be hard and challenging but we should not let the challenges put us down. Make the best decisions when you have to and be who you are. Sunday candy writes this story but I am writing on behalf of millions of young women and girls who face this challenge in life. We all know it’s hard to be disowned by your own family trying to do the best thing for yourself but we have got to be strong and face life with its challenges. Child marriage is happening in many part of the world. As we read this, please let’s do something positive that will help girls in this situation. We want people to recognise the right of these young people and respect their decision no matter what. We must be the driver of our own life.

Share This Article

by Bianca Laureano

There’s always talk about virginity, at least it seems that way. The idea of virginity and who is a virgin has been discussed for generations. It probably will continue for more generations after today. Earlier last week Samantha  wrote about virginity in the article “Myths About Virginity in Glee’s ‘First Time’”  and highlights 4 myths about virginity connected to the show. One of my homegirls, Ellen, also wrote about virginity focused primarily among queer youth and answered questions such as “how does a gay or lesbian person ‘lose’ their virginity?”  and also discusses Kurt “losing” his virginity on Glee. 

I greatly appreciate all of these posts because I stopped watching Glee seasons ago. This was around the time they were just not getting a lot of things right for me as a viewer. Like many folks, I decided to spend my time not working on shows that are actually entertaining and not enraging. Nonetheless, I still find these examples important to know about and to possibly use as opportunities to start conversations.

So this post is also about virginity. It’s about virginity because I went to see an advanced screening of the film Immortals  (in 3D) which was the highest grossing film this weekend bringing an estimated $68 million worldwide.  Now, I admit that I would not have seen this film had I had to pay for it, you can read my full review here,  but there were very interesting conversations around virginity represented that got me thinking for today’s post.

The narrative of virginity in the film were connected to the gift of seeing the future that the Oracle had (played by Freida Pinto) who is protected by three High Priestesses of various ethnic backgrounds throughout the film. The High Priestesses are there to deter those who wish to harm the Oracle and confuse them to which woman is the actual Oracle. Now, we are expected to believe the reason she has this gift is because she is touched by the gods and that it is only hers until she no longer is a virgin.

Yes, we’ve heard this story before. Lots of pressure on a woman and her virginity. What I did not expect was the Oracle to decide to give up her gift (seeing the future) and thus have sex. She decided that the pressure of seeing the world through other people’s eyes was too much. She wanted to see the world through her own eyes. As a result she decided to have penetrative vaginal intercourse, or so we are lead to believe.

What strikes me as interesting was this connection of responsibility and pressure connected to virginity. Isn’t that the truth?! There are so many ways that young women, especially young women of Color’s, virginity is connected to their being honorable, pure, good, and eventually being gifted with a relationship (often with someone of another gender), support, and everlasting love. It’s very much a constructed message directed mainly at young women. There are also many ways we and society, judge youth who engage in sexual activities and assume they are not aware of what they are doing. Sometimes they are often asked “why” they would want to engage in such activities. I’m not sure many folks would be ready to hear all the answers. Often, I find, we say “I don’t know” because it’s the closest thing we have to understanding what self-determination feels and sounds like.

So what if we looked at virginity from a different lens. From the lens of getting rid of pressure to be pure and honorable, desiring to have control over one’s life versus doing what others tell people to do. I’m basically talking about agency and self-determination here. If we looked at virginity and the choices some young people make in no longer maintaining/claiming/holding onto their virginity as a form of self-determination how may the messaging and work we do change and shift? What new challenges may we encounter? Who will be excluded from this approach (i.e. people who do not have a choice to maintain/claim/hold onto their virginity because of sexual abuse, rape, child marriage, etc.)?

I’ve thought about this topic for a very long time. How virginity is connected to a sense of morality and decency. My personal conclusion is that a lot of our understanding and ideas about virginity are connected to conquest and colonization. Some books that have helped me think more about this topic include Dr. Eileen Suarez-Findaly’s Imposing Decency: The Politics of Imposing Sexuality and Race in Puerto Rico 1870-1920,  and Hanne Blank’s Virgin: The Untouched History.  When I think about how complex virginity is, that is when I begin to understand we cannot just have one definition, one response, one reaction, and one right way.

Share This Article

Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

October 30 – November 5

Stats this week: 31 posts by 25 writers

Why Mississippi’s ‘Personhood’ Measure is a Threat to Women Everywhere- by LoKal

Inside this post:

Women’s access to birth control could be severly limited by Initiative 26 because this measure considers a fertilized egg as a human life. However, many forms of birth control prevents the implantation of fertilized eggs, therein creating a conflict. Maybe if our politicians had received better sex education they might understand this more thoroughly…

Young feminism is thriving!- by ashthom

Inside this post:

USA Today ran an article claiming young women are no longer interested in the feminist movement. This is my response.

Child Marriage and its effects on SRHR- by srijanna1

Inside this post:

A comprehensive look at the physical and emotional effects of child marriage in Nepal.

Let’s Make History: Congress’ New Vision for Sex Ed- by AFY_Deb

Inside this post:

Today, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) are introducing the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, a new bill that lays out a comprehensive, age-appropriate, and holistic vision for sex education policy in the United States.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

My post this week: 
How Herman Cain can help us talk honestly about abortion

Share This Article

 Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) is a topic highly shunned in Nepal. It seems like people have silently agreed that sexual and reproductive issues are something that are learnt with experience and not to be talked about in family or in public. Even talk about sex is a taboo. This attitude or culture among people deprives the adolescents from correct information on SRHR which is essential to help them better cope with the physical, emotional or mental changes that occur in their adolescence.
The SRHR education in schools begins at the secondary level. At this level, the majority of the students have already gone through the puberty and are not getting the education prior to them facing the problems. Besides, the education that they receive is just biological. It focuses on the anatomy of reproductive parts and the process of reproduction while completely ignoring the issues of sexuality, gender identity, contraception use or methods of family planning. Besides the teachers are more likely to skip the chapter on SRHR altogether than addressing the real issue. There even have been incidents in villages where a teacher was beaten by the villagers because he taught their children about contraception.
In such a situation, the youth rely on their elder siblings or their peers for the information on SRH which is, most of the times, misleading. This leads the youth to experiment with unsafe sexual behavior which may sometimes even cost their lives.
The local health centers are mostly not youth friendly. The service provider is usually someone from the same community and this makes young people concerned that the services they use from the health centers may not stay confidential. Besides the service provider is usually an adult who is judgmental and cynical towards the sex-related problems that young people face. The means of contraception such as condoms and emergency pills are not available in many rural clinics and such services at private clinics are very costly for the young people to access. This has discouraged the youths from accessing the SRH services, although many clinics at urban areas today provide integrated health services, causing increased rates of teenage pregnancy, HIV infection and STIs.
Thus, free or discounted sexual health services from governmental, non-governmental and community-based organizations which treat the young people with respect and ensure confidentiality are essential to motivate the young people to consume those services. Peer education in youth-friendly health centers can also be effective towards encouraging young people to consume the provided health services.
On the other hand, the practice of child marriage has majorly hindered the sexual and reproductive health of the people (especially females). The mid-teen wives are forced to engage in sexual activities and bear children before their bodies have gone through puberty. The young females are not able to negotiate the sexual consent and use of contraceptives or, most of the times, are not aware of their uses. This has caused high rate of maternal and infant mortality rate in Nepal.
The laws also have several gaps. The legal age of marriage with parental consent is 16 for girls. But girls 16 years old are still very young and are not ready to bear children. The punishment for the crime of child marriage is negligible and does not discourage the people from doing so. Besides, we are all very aware that majority of girls are married before the legal age and government is not able to do anything to stop it.
Since people do not fear from the laws of the country, we may implement a policy to provide incentives to those who don’t break the law (for example, marries his daughter after the legal age, gives birth after the age of 20, seeks abortion or other sexual health services, does a safe delivery at hospitals, etc.)
Besides, from my experience, Nepali youths who do not get a reliable information from their parents, teachers or health assistants, can benefit greatly from the SRHR related programs through radio and television. I still remember that I first learnt about HIV and condoms through a television serial. I am pretty sure my parents or teachers were not going to talk to me about these issues. SO media can be an effective way to make not only young but also adults aware on SRHR issues.Recently, I and another YALC member gave an interview in a radio program on LGBTQ issue and that episode was played over and over again.
For urban youths, we can provide them the specific websites from where they can gain reliable information on sexual health as well as satisfy their several other queries.
Also we can encourage the youths to make an effort to have a proper communication with their parents about SRHR. To break the ice, the youths can give their parents books or pamphlets on SRHR, for example. This can make the parents understand that their children are willing and ready to talk about the dreaded topic.

Share This Article

 Nepal is 7th in the world and 3rd in asia in terms of prevalence of child marriage.Most of the marriages in Nepal are traditionally arranged by the families of the bride and groom without their consent. And if they have a daughter in the family, the parents start their search for her husband as soon as the girl reaches 8 or 9 years old. It is not uncommon for the husband to be twice or thrice the age of the girl and to have already possessed multiple wives at home. The girl does not need to know who she is getting married to until the day of her marriage.

As soon as she reaches her husband’s house, the child bride is expected to do all the household works like cooking meals, washing clothes, fetching water, feeding the cattle, etc. She is forced into sexual intercourse by her husband. She has to please her in-laws unless she wants to be a victim of physical abuse or she wants her husband to marry another girl who would please the family.

And within a year or two, she is expected to give birth to a child and that better be a “son”.

And this is just another story.

A 12 or 13 year old mother is a part of everyday life in rural parts of Nepal. The younger the mother, the better. People in developed parts of the world like us or other countries that r developed might look upon marriage as a matter of mutual consent. But in Nepal, more than 56.1% oef the girls are bullied into marriage before the legal age of 18. Child bride does not feel like they are being forced into marriage;they have learnt to accept it. It’s like you cannot avoid menstruation process, you cannot avoid marriage at a young age if you are a girl. So why argue about it.
More than 21.4% of the girls become mothers from 10-15. In some rural communities, more than 90% girls are married before 15 and 80% of them give birth within one or two years of marriage. Talks of pain during sexual intercourse, fears of childbirth and struggle to please their in-laws are common in girls aged 12 or 13. In an age when the girl should be going to school and playing with her peers, she is completely robbed off her innocence and forced to assume the duties that no one her age can ever be ready to shoulder. How will a girl 13 years old be able care for her child when she herself is a child in every sense?

The major reason behind these millions of children, especially the girls, getting married is the culture and social structure of Nepal. The parents of a girl are looked down in the society if they are not able to marry their girl off before she reaches puberty. After a girl reaches puberty, she starts developing attraction towards the opposite sex and it is believed that these feelings in a girl make her impure. Sexual chastity/virginity of a girl is an unarguable prerequisite for marriage which is ensured if the girl is married early.

The other very important reason behind child marriage in Nepal is poverty. More than 40% of Nepalese lie below the poverty line, which means that they do not have sufficient to feed themselves. If the parents marry their daughter off, they will have one less mouth to feed. So they want to get rid of their daughter as early as possible. On the other hand, they have to provide fewer dowries to the groom’s family if the girl is young.

The boy’s parents are also eager to arrange an early marriage for their son so that they can bring a working manpower in the house and receive dowry from bride’s parents. So it’s like a contract . “You are going to give and I am going to take; so just just do it soon and stay free from stress.” Also, a young daughter-in-law is more likely to be at the beck and call of the in-laws.

A girl so young is in no way physically or emotionally ready to bear a child. Studies have shown indicated that girls 10-14 are five times more likely and girls 15-19 are twice as likely to die from childbirth compared to women older than 20. Mortality rates for babies born to mothers under 20 are almost 75% higher than for the children born to older mothers.

Besides, child wives are forced into sexual activities and child birth before their bodies have gone through puberty. These girls have little or no education on reproductive health and are powerless to demand the use of contraception. So these girls have very high risk of problems related to sexual and reproductive health while they are less likely to seek for the health services.

Thus the girls are more vulnerable to chronic physical and mental health problems, remain illiterate and live in poverty throughout their lives.

Share This Article

This is a story of a girl Ramila (name changed )and thus has faced difficulty due to early child marriage .
I was married to a nine-year-old boy when I was three. At that point of time, I was unaware of marriages. I don’t even remember my marriage event. I just remember that as I was too young and was unable to walk and they had to carry me and bring me over to their place. Getting married at an early age, I was destined to suffer a lot of hardships. I had to carry water in a small clay-pot in the mornings. I had to sweep and swap the floor everyday. Those were the days when I wanted to eat good food and wear pretty clothes. I used to feel very hungry, but I had to be satisfied with the amount of food that I was provided. I never got to eat enough. I sometimes secretly ate corns, soybeans, etc that used to grow in the field. And if I was caught eating, my inlaws and husband would beat me up accusing me of stealing from the field and eating. Sometimes the villagers used to give me food and if my husband and in-laws found out, they used to beat me up accusing me of stealing food from the house. They used to give me one black blouse and a cotton sari1 torn into two pieces. I had to wear these for two years.Never did I get other accessories like petticoats, belts etc. When my saris got torn, I used to patch them up and continue wearing them. My husband married three times after me. At present, he lives with his youngest wife. Since I married at an early age, early child-delivery was inevitable. As a result, I now have severe back problems. I used to weep a lot and consequently, I faced problems with my eyes and had to undergo an eye operation. I often think that if I had the power to think like I do now, I would never go to that house. I also wish I had not given birth to any children. Retrospective sufferings make me wish not to see my husband again. Nevertheless, I do not want him to die because I don’t want to lose my marital status.

So we have to make people aware about things going on and creating problems and due to earlier days the ain is still there

Share This Article

The parliament of Nepal voted overwhelmingly in March to legalize abortion in that country up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and as late as 18 weeks in cases of rape or incest. The Nepali action continues the worldwide trend toward liberalization of countries’ abortion laws. Other than Poland, which reversed its long-standing policy in 1997 and outlawed abortion in most circumstances, no country has restricted its abortion law in any significant way in many years. Currently, more than six in 10 of the world’s women live in countries where abortion is legal under most circumstances. This includes more than half of women in developing countries and almost nine in 10 women in developed countries.
The new law is a radical departure from past policy: Abortion had been banned completely for any reason in Nepal, and having an illegal abortion was a criminal act. Indeed, the first test of the government’s commitment to the new law will be its decision whether or not to free the some 65 women who are currently imprisoned in Nepal for that very reason. The law does not address their plight, but legal and political efforts are underway on behalf of these women and their children, who in some cases live in prison with them.
Nepal has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, and it is estimated that half of those deaths result from illegal abortion. Indigenous nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) pushed for abortion law reform in part as a public health imperative. It is also significant, however, that the new abortion law is paired with provisions that for the first time, ban child marriage and polygamy and grant Nepali women some measure of property rights as well. Accordingly, the broad coalition of Nepali NGOs and government officials who for the past seven years campaigned for these changes view the entire package as a major advance for women’s and human rights.

Profile photo of goma thapa
Share This Article

Sex is neither a crime nor an aberration – and the sooner we accept it as such, the better….

The rapid changes that came to Nepal with the fall of the Panchayat era and the ushering in of the wave of a liberal and democratic polity have unquestionably had far-reaching impacts on our social sphere as well. Whether one chooses to label it “modern,” or “progressive,” Nepal’s phase of transition is a complex process that finds its roots in the struggle to translate ‘modernity’ into an otherwise deeply traditional society. But while we have been able to transcend political and economic taboos, many remain entrenched throughout society.

Among them is, still, the sex stigma. In comparison to many of our more ‘developed’ regional nations, Nepali society is certainly more liberal, and in terms of sex, it’s coming of age. However, even among our educated, “modern” classes, sex is always a topic that’s thick in the air, but always ignored. This ignorance is causing problems. From the criminalisation of public displays of affection and the lack of space to date, not talking about sex has more profound impacts too. The intention is not to unnecessarily “problematise” what could otherwise be a very private and personal subject matter. However, the lack of public discourse on sex is damaging for any society (ours included), which aspires to established notions of modernity—with all its good and bad connotations.

Recently, there have been simultaneous reports, spread throughout all major media outlets, of women committing suicide. It’s bad enough that suicide is the number one killer of Nepali women of a reproductive age, but the fact that suicide rates have risen exponentially in the past decade is simply terrifying. Where sections of society are consciously or subconsciously at odds with one another over modern values—from the village level to the urban centres—it is of vital importance that the idea of sex and sexuality is, at least, accepted as legitimate topic of discourse, thereby publicly endorsing it as a reality. At times it will be ‘illicit,’ but certainly not always. The notion that sex is wrong; sometimes to the extent of being criminal, regardless of context, is an absurd opinion to uphold. The media too, has played a pivotal role in damning some harmless sexual relationships as ‘illicit’. But, this kind of stigma is driving society, and subsequently driving some women to suicide. Suicide is only one of many examples of the negative impacts of this kind of stigmatisation.

Our education process has not been of much help in this regard either. There is a chapter in the SLC on sex and reproduction. But ask most students what they have been taught and they will almost always tell one of two things: First, a teacher comes in, explains the clinical biology of reproduction and leaves—undoubtedly with a face dripping with embarrassment. In another scenario, the teacher comes in, briefly mentions the chapter and chooses to brush past it. Even in the first instance, reducing sex to purely clinical terms undermines its non-reproductive value. The stigma runs so deep that teachers find teaching sex on a human level, impossible. It doesn’t take an expert to assume that this stigma may then move beyond the school grounds and into the teachers’ home itself—even if married and with kids.

It is preposterous that some married couples who have all the licence that society could offer still feel the need to equate sex to biological reproduction and nothing more. Engage in most middle-aged women’s gatherings and you will see the depth of truth in this statement. Perhaps these views change behind bedroom doors, but that isn’t going to change social dynamics.

There is a reason for why human beings are the only species (aside from Bonobos) that have a 365-day ability to engage in sex. It’s hard to believe that this kind of cycle only serves the purpose of reproduction. Actually, it is explained quite simply in the already-accepted Darwinian theory of evolution that humans have evolved to enjoy sex.

Furthermore, by now it is common knowledge that taboo and stigma sell like hotcakes to a growing angst-ridden and rebellious young generation. Labelling something “wrong,” is simply an invitation to explore for a generation of raging hormones. Speak to any gynaecologist in any urban or rural setting and they will certainly tell you of the incredible and dangerously increasing rates of teenage pregnancy and subsequent abortions. Between lack of education and the need to rebel, the stigmatisation of sex works to the advantage of indiscriminate “underage” sexual activity. Raiding discos and demonising the young will only get you so far. Not talking about sex doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening, and it certainly doesn’t mean it is not creating problems.

To top it all off, Nepalis are marrying later—even in villages as far as the Far-West, child marriages and even teenage marriages are a decreasing phenomenon—and strict abstinence is an invitation to an unhealthy mental state of being. It beckons depression on one end of the spectrum and aggression

on the other. Ask any foreigner or young Nepali woman about aggression and distasteful experiences on a local bus or busy market. It is baffling how these realities are seen in such isolation; it should be a matter of putting two and two together that sex is a pre-requisite of a mature human mind and body.

The question is not of whether sex is good or bad. The idea is not to impose a moral value on the idea of sex or sexuality itself but to understand it as an accepted aspect of what we call ‘modernity’.

People must understand that modernization is a process already underway in Nepal—selectively accepting only some parts of it is no longer an option that reconciles the rampant desires of the masses. Similar to the acceptance of democracy, like it or not, the acceptance of sex as a human right is inevitable. So, at the very least, let’s talk about sex.

Published on 25 August 2010
The Kathmandu Post by Bidushi Dhungel .

Share This Article

In spite of several development works in Nepal, there are still many people in the districts who lead difficult lives. A district called Bajura, situated in the far west of the country, has tradition to fix the marriage of the baby when still in the womb of her mother. That child is married, as soon as, he/she turns 10 years old, to the chosen one in the womb. Not only that, the girl who goes to the boy’s house after marriage is not allowed to meet her parents for 3 long years. Just hearing and reading such condition of those poor little girls who are forced to follow the traditions which they do not even understand.
Adolescent is the time when girls need the support, advice and love from their parents to the several problems they may be facing, however, these girls are forced to spend their time with the strange in-laws. We cannot even imagine the effects that may be having on their immature brains.
In the name of traditions, there are many girls who are forced to bear different kinds of violence. Due to lack of education they cannot even access health related information. Getting married at such a young age, getting pregnant, giving birth to many children are the causes of high maternal death. Messages on sexual and reproductive health is very important to spread in such regions. This is everyone’s responsibility which eventually should help solve these problems.

Share This Article

They say that it is the early bird that catches the worm… but there are some who take this adage to staggering heights. Take for instance a tradition as old as Methuselah among the denizens of Gumba settlement in remote Bichchhya VDC of Bajura district , far western development region in Nepal — a tradition that is very much alive and kicking.

The VDC’s folk have this deep-rooted system of formalising the engagement of their children even before they are born. For them, the tradition is a classic example of the bee’s knees. Pema Lama of the village is just 10 years old. Her parents married her off to eight-year-old Dev Bahadur Lama last year. What’s interesting is that their marriage was fixed before either of them was born.

Pema’s mother Pasang Lama said that they settled the issue of Pema’s marriage with Dev Bahadur after talking to Dev’s father just a few months after Pema was conceived. According to the tradition, parents announce their children’s engagement before they are born and they tie the nuptial knot of their children before they turn 10. The villagers have been following this tradition for years. There are 35 children below five years of age in the village and all of them are engaged.

A 128 km away from the district headquarters Martadi, the village has 24 households with settlements of Thapa, Gurung, Lama and Kunwar castes. The tradition has it that their children’s marriage is fixed among relatives. However, priority is given to marriage between cousins. “The bride must stay at the groom’s house until three years after the marriage. Only thereafter, she will be allowed to meet her parents,” said Dhan Bahadur Thapa of neighbouring village Dausaina.

This remote village is far removed from the pale of education and other basic development infrastructure. A local, Tek Kunwar, said that while they have not got any health facilities so far, most villagers remain ignorant of the the government’s scheme of providing the social security allowance given to the elderly and widows.

Published on
"The kathmandu post"  and writer is Arjun Shah.

Share This Article

By Jodi Jacobson

This post was originally published on RH Reality Check

The Republican/Tea Party majorities in the House of Representatives are, literally, salivating at the prospect of cutting aid to the world’s poorest women. 

On Wednesday [May 25], Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-MI), put out a press release with this gleeful introductory paragraph:

"I’m happy to announce that the winning program of the first round of YouCut is the UN Populations Fund (UNFPA) which will save $400 million in taxpayer dollars over ten years. This program, which is receiving funding from the Obama Administration but was not funded under the Reagan or George W. Bush Administrations, raises many concerns over potential funding for abortions and forced sterilizations in countries such as China."

A bill has been introduced to defund UNFPA, which will first go to committee and then to a full vote on the House floor, where only a simple majority will be needed to pass the bill.

For the purpose of clarity, I’ll first add the facts, ’cause you won’t get them from Rep. Ellmers: As certified by the United States Department of State, and also by a special investigative team appointed by President George W. Bush himself, UNFPA has nothing whatsoever to do with forced sterilization in China and does not provide abortions. Facts, however, are not germane to either the GOP or the Tea Party.

Instead, defunding UNFPA — like Planned Parenthood particularly and women’s health services more broadly — has long been a primary objective of the far right in the United States and a special project of Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, whose hatred for women knows no limits.  So this is just the latest in an endless war against women.

What is notable, however, is the gloating nature of the discussion around these cuts, and the new smokescreen created by the recruitment of female mysogynists to the effort:

"This is just the first of many steps we are taking to stop wasteful spending and turn our economy around. I look forward to working to push defunding of this program through the House and hopefully getting the bill to the floor for a vote. I would encourage everyone to visit my website to learn more about the winning program and keep voting as the competition continues over the next several months."

YouCut is an initiative by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to give his minions the appearance of having a role in making decisions.  It is described by Cantor as: "a unique grassroots program…that allows the public to directly engage in the legislative process by voting online for a spending cut of their choice. The winning cut is then formally introduced by the member who put forward the three cuts that week."

In reality, people can vote "up or down" on pre-selected initiatives ostensibly aimed at cutting the deficit and balancing the federal budget.  Not surprisingly, those pre-selected initiatives are warmed over roadkill from past GOP efforts. UNFPA was one of the first to be put to the test for voting and, shockingly, it rose to the top in the "Week One/Phase II" voting on the website, American-Idol style, among the small number of people in the United States who actually agree with these cuts. According to research conducted by the Rand corporation, 80 percent of the American public writ large supports funding U.S. government funding of voluntary family planning programs overseas. Moreover, in a recent poll, 85 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement: "Every woman on the planet deserves access to quality maternal and reproductive health care." So Cantor’s efforts clearly draw a distinct minority of people who are either largely uninformed or affiliated with the extremist right, or both.

Defunding UNFPA will do nothing to address the deficit, instead, it will cost us more money in the long-run, something that can be said about each of these supposed initiatives clothed in deficit reduction and really meant to impose a radical agenda on the United States.

For example, President Obama’s budget request for FY 2012 includes $47 million for UNFPA.  In FY 2010, UNFPA received $55 million in U.S. funding; in the FY 2011 budget "negotiations," the U.S. contribution to UNFPA was cut by $15 million, to $40 million dollars, after the GOP- and Tea Party-controlled House tried to eliminate funding altogether when it passed H.R. 1.

What does UNFPA do with funding from the United States and other countries? It’s mission is to promote the internationally recognized "right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity."  UNFPA does not provide abortions, abortion services, or abortion-related equipment to governments in other countries, but it does help governments strengthen their national health systems to address complications of unsafe abortion, thereby saving women’s lives.

What else does UNFPA do? It supports countries in best using population data to develop policies and programs to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.  UNFPA helps reduce maternal mortality, infant mortality, and child mortality; helps stem the spread of disease, and helps promote policies that enable people, especially the poorest, to live in dignity.

This is an agenda clearly worthy of the deep hatred of the both the GOP and Tea Party, which can not stand the idea that women have rights at all, much less exercise the right to determine whether, when, and to whom to marry, or whether, when, and with whom to have children, or how many children to have. We now know from laws passed in the United States that women dying from unsafe abortion are of no concern to the GOP or Tea Party extremists governing the House.

Even child health is under attack. UNFPA works, for example, to reduce child marriage and eliminate female genital mutilation.  But extremists now controlling the House killed legislation aimed at reducing child marriage using existing resources, so their real intentions are clear.

In fact, for every $100 million dollars invested globally in the kinds of programs supported by UNFPA, we help women avert 2.1 million unintended pregnancies, prevent 825,000 abortions, prevent 70,000 infant deaths, and save 4,000 women from dying in pregnancy and childbirth.  This is not only cost-effective funding, it is pro-life and morally imperative funding.

What Representative Ellmers calls "wasteful spending," saves the lives of mothers and infants, keeps families healthy, saves girls from becoming child brides and… reduces the need for abortion by expanding access to voluntary family planning services to the very poorest. 

So what Ellmers — and the male-dominated leadership for which she is shlling — really mean is that they are "happy to announce" that they will cause more death, pain, and suffering among poor women worldwide.  That does seem to be their goal, does it not?

Share This Article

A beautiful day had begun as usual as students on campus moved about for their daily lectures. i had just come back from school just before dusk to the hostel and of course i settled in to the ever noisy environment full of girls chattering away, others braiding their hairs while the others just idled away. I got into my room and i heard shouts from my room, people from other rooms had gathered. I ran to my room to get the full story of what was happening in fact to get into my room seemed almost impossible as I had to make my way past a crowd that had formed at the entrance of my room.
” what’s happening?” I asked
” you mean you don’t know? Came a voice
” its oyiza, she is getting married next three weeks”
oyiza? The voice repeatedly spoke in my head. How can oyiza be getting married? Then suddenly it struck me! Oh! oyiza of course she is getting married, I mean, she was old enough for that. We had two oyiza’s and the one I thought of was of course ready for marriage in everything. So I heaved a sigh of relief and put up a happy face. In fact I took over from the noisemakers and made my way to oyiza’s bed and hugged her.
” oyiza am so happy for you”. I said. oyiza looked puzzled and asked
”Because, soon you will be married”
she looked at me and then smiled. ” Oh! Am not the bride to be, its baby”
”baby!”. I was horrified and I couldn’t see any reason why people should fill our room in excitement and for the second time I wanted to convince myself that they came here to console her for she was travelling down a path that would eventually become unfamiliar.
”Yes, its baby why the shock?”
Well- I started to speak then stopped and screamed, because baby is baby!”. For heaven’s sake this baby as she was fondly called was baby because she was just fifteen! How dare her parent consent to that! I was furious within me and even as I write I can still feel the anger rising within me.
I left the room for a while, and then came back at night when all had taken a calm position. The first thing that came to my mind was baby! Oh I needed to talk to her. So I quickly went in search of her and found her alone under the tree, she looked very depressed. I walked up to her and watched her for a while before walking up to her. She was sobbing quietly not wanting to draw attention to herself and as soon as she saw me she quickly cleaned her eyes and tried to put up a smile.
” hi”
”hello”. I said. then I walked up to her and told her I had heard of the ”GREAT NEWS” but obviously the news wasn’t great to her as she broke down in tears and said
” I don’t want to be married to that man! He is old enough to be my grandfather! Then she held on to me and cried all the more. I wanted to satisfy my curiosity on the stand of her parent on the issue. Her mother was a single parent with two daughters. And so I asked.
‘’what is your mother’s take on it?’’. with teary eyes she looked at me and said coldly
”she swears by my father’s grave that if I don’t marry him that she would send me away from the house and so I have no choice. You know my religion permits it and so I can do nothing about it except yield.
Two years on and I still see her on campus, she is forced into a marriage of which she has no interest in and now at seventeen, oyiza is pregnant and can barely manage herself. For me, this was a case of a child pregnant for another child, a lamb taken to the slaughter house to be slain and religion as opium of the masses.
While in a bus the next day, I could still see her face as she spoke that night while we were under the tree. It struck me and I wished I could tell her to defy her parent and take a stand against parental blackmail and forced child marrige. But a second thought crossed my mind yet again, for her, she had come to a point where her power of choice had been snatched away but for me, I had just stepped into a world where I had gained the power to choose whether to TAKE A STAND AGAINST FORCED CHILD MARRIAGE or to DO NOTHING!

Share This Article


A Picture of Girls’ Health in Nepal

Nepal; a developing country has been doing a lot of progress in meeting health care needs of population and the millennium development goals. But despite the vigorous effort and lot of expenditure of money from national and international sources, the adolescent and youth health status in Nepal is undoubtedly poor. It is a common fact that youth and adolescent health status especially that of girls is mostly ignored in front of huge problems of maternal and neonatal health problems in developing country.
That is a typical picture of girl’s population in Nepal. Girls Population in Nepal consist 49% of the total child population. The Literacy rate among the girls is 42.8% as compared to 65% in the boys. In Nepal, primary school going girls is 74% compared to 86% with the boys. The child marriage practices is rampant in Nepal, 21% of total marriages in Nepal is held with girls below 16 years and 7% of child marriages are held with children below 10 years; 41% of girls give birth to a child before the age of 19.
Girls bear the heaviest burden of work in home, most of the household chores and child rearing activities are the responsibility of girls. Girls aged between 10-14 works double as compared to boys in the same age group. In Nepal, 26 lakh (10 lakh=1 million) children are working in different fields of labor. Among this, 56% are reported to be girls.
Girls trafficking form Nepal to different adjacent cities of India and even in the cities of country has been growing especially from rural districts of Nepal. Girls are trafficked for different purposes including sex trade, domestic work, and marriage, carpet weaving and for forced beggary. About 20% (i.e. 40,000) of the total trafficked women for sex trade are girls below 16 years. Around 12,000 girl children are trafficked in a year. Almost 60% of survivors of child sex abuse and rape are girls below 18 years. Most of them are abused either at home, educational institution, work place or any given place. They are insecure in all these places.
Living standard survey of Nepal has revealed that 31% of Nepalese population is below the poverty line. The burden of poverty is especially heavier in girls and women. Malnutrition in Nepal is 56.2% in which the state of girls is more vulnerable than boys. Biologically boys are vulnerable to diseases but because of the societal behavior, girls tend to be vulnerable. Because of decade long conflicts and associated problems of poverty and ignorance, the problem of street children is growing especially in cities and towns. Out of total 5000 street children in Nepal around 5% are girls.
The stereotypical male roles and patriarchal societal structure, discrimination of girls is rampant in every sector of society including education, economy, health care and work wage. Women and girls are regarded as "untouchable during menstrual period. In some parts of far western Nepal, they are not even allowed to stay inside home and forced to stay outside, mostly in the cattle house. Despite legal prohibition, sexual exploitation of girls in the form of traditional and religious customs, such as Deuki, Badi, Jhuma still exists in Nepal.
Armed Conflict In past 12 years, 475 children have died due to internal armed conflict. Among them 139 are girls. In the course of armed conflict many incidences of sexual abuse of girls has been made public. Similarly, many children including girls have been displaced to city areas and are involved in exploitative labor sectors.
After the peace process, the consequent interim constitution of Nepal has been drafted with health right of people as fundamental rights. The free health care services have become a boon for the poor and needy proportion of population to enjoy the health rights. Among them girls has benefited a lot, but still because of the structure of health setting and lack of skill in health care providers in providing health care services, girls feel shy and uncomfortable in reaching and getting health services.So there has to be done serious exercise in policy, organizational and functional level to make the health care services girls friendly and society conducive to women’s health in all sense.

References: UNICEF, Central Bureau of Statistics, CWIN National Recourse Centre

Share This Article

I see a time come, when every young girl both in the rural and urban areas will recognize they have a right, and a role to play in Nation building.
I see a time come, when every young girl will have adequate access to health facilities, services and comprehensive sexual reproductive health information including contraceptives.
I see a time come, when young women and girls in the rural areas will strike out early/child marriage from their cultural practice.
I see a time come, when every young girl will have COMPULSORY ACCESS TO BASIC EDUCATION.
I see a time come, when all forms of violence against females will be reduced to the barest minimum.
I see a time come, when unsafe abortion will not be an option for young girls.
I see a time come, when cultural practice like Female Genital Mutilation will no longer be practiced.
I see a time come, when women will be given a 100% opportunity to participate.
I see a time come, when socio-cultural factors which make discrimination and stigmatization against girls for various reason be made punishable to offenders by the law.
I see a time come, when all these will come to pass.
This is my dream for all girls.

Share This Article

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the 2011 Amplify International Women’s Day Blogathon. Click here to learn more about how you can join this week of action.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. While we’ve come a long way over the last century, the fact remains that in many parts of the world, life is still a significant challenge for women, particularly young women. Whether she lives in a refugee camp, a rural village, or the capital of her country, a young woman often wages a daily battle against poverty, gender-based violence, child marriage, and inadequate access to family planning and reproductive health information and services, just to name a few.

Maybe it’s this stark reality that helps explain why International Women’s Day is more widely known in some regions of the world than others. I have to admit, I knew very little about the importance of March 8th before I moved overseas. I don’t recall ever learning about it in school or ever seeing anyone celebrate it or even mention its significance when I was growing up. Yet millions of women across the globe have celebrated this day for 100 years and counting. It never occurred to me that I would have to travel thousands of miles to learn a lesson that should have been ingrained in me from an early age.

So, this March 8th, I want to take a moment to reflect on the strength and courage I have gained from 45 very special young women I had the privilege of calling my sisters. You see, for two years, I had the great fortune of helping to run an afterschool center for young women, aged 12-24, in Mauritania, West Africa. We utilized an array of activities from tutoring and internet workshops to life skills and health lessons, all in an effort to build self-esteem and encourage girls to stay in school and delay marriage and childbirth when possible. The most exciting event every year at the Center was our celebration of International Women’s Day. Run by and for the young women themselves, this event always featured skits, essays, and songs written and performed by them, along with presentations from local women who had succeeded in becoming community leaders and role models. It was the one day of the year that my 45 sisters could really focus on themselves and their future aspirations. It was the one day of the year they didn’t have to hear someone tell them they weren’t worthy of dreaming of something better. And it was the one day of the year they didn’t have to worry about being forced to leave school because of an arranged marriage with a much older man. Just imagine what the world would be like if every day was International Women’s Day.

Fortunately, there are many things we can do to promote and celebrate women on this International Women’s Day. Check out this great video posted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who makes the following case for prioritizing women in foreign policy:

“It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing. Women and girls drive our economies. They build peace and prosperity. Investing in them means investing in global economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for everyone—the world over.”

And just in case you thought only women could speak out on March 8th, take a look at this awesome video with Daniel Craig, otherwise known as 007, and the voice of Dame Judi Dench who painstakingly points out the inequalities between men and women as Craig, himself, transforms into a woman.

Now, be sure to check out Amplify’s International Women’s Day page to learn more about how you can do your part in honoring women today and every day of the year.

Share This Article

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the 2011 Amplify International Women’s Day Blogathon. Click here to learn more about how you can join this week of action.

Violence against women on the basis of gender differences is still prevalent in most of the part of the world; highly prevalent in developing world and also a problem of developed world too.

Nepal, a small country with tween problem of illeteracy and poverty has fostered a ground for GBV. The tradition of child marriage,dowry sistem has made the situation even worse.In some part of Nepal, traditialonal practices like: Ghuma, Chaupadi, Kumari, Badi, Jari system has also contributed to the todays miserable condition of Women in Nepal.

Nepal is the country with diverse cultural ,ethnic and geographical variation. The socioeconomic status of women and their control and access over resources vary widely. Women in city and town with eudational and employment oppourtunities exercise greatercontrol over the resourses and women form rural part is oftenly dominated by their male partner in the matter of control over resources.

The trend is gradually shfting.Now every year more and more gilrls are enrolled to school women are getting emloyed and  these are the positve rays of hope.

Let’s celebrate Women’s Day 2011 with an initiative form you, your community and also form National level to strengthen rights of women.

These all makes a way forward to eliminate violence against women.

Share This Article

Congress is wrapping up its work for the year and we need you to make sure they don’t leave town without taking action to eliminate the harmful practice of child marriage. I recently wrote about Senate passage of the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act. This groundbreaking legislation would require the president to develop a strategy to combat child marriage, integrate the issue of child marriage into relevant U.S. development programs, and require the State Department to report on the practice in its annual Human Rights Report.

In order for the Act to become law, we need the House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead and pass this legislation before Congress adjourns for the year. This is where you come in! Your voice is an important and powerful one—please make sure you use it to let your Representative know where you stand on child marriage.

Need a reason to take action? How about 60 million reasons? That’s the number of young women between the ages of 20 and 24 who were married before the age of 18. Let that sink in for a minute…and now do something about it!

Please take action TODAY!

Share This Article

Sixty million girls aged 15-19 are married worldwide. If present trends continue, in the next decade, 100 million girls will be married before they turn 18. Earlier this year, we heard the courageous story of Nujood Ali, a 12-year-old girl in Yemen who successfully sought a divorce at the age of 10. In April, another 12-year-old Yemeni bride, Elham Madhi, died of internal bleeding following intercourse just three days after her marriage to a man twice her age. Sadly, these are just two instances among thousands around the world. 
During my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mauritania, West Africa, I met several young girls as young as 12 or 13 who had become brides to men in their 40s and 50s. Before they had even developed their bodies and minds fully, they were having babies of their own due to rigid laws regulating access to contraception, inadequate information and education, and insufficient resources. Time and time again, I saw them come to the hospital too late, after they were already in obstructed labor and dangerously close to death. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I might not have believed that complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for young women ages 15 to 19 in low- and middle-income countries. Few people outside the developing world realize that these girls are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as those over age 20 and girls under age 15 are five times more likely to die. And it’s not just the mothers whose lives are in jeopardy—babies born to mothers under the age of 20 have mortality rates 73 percent higher than those born to older mothers. Two of the contributing factors to this disproportionate newborn and infant mortality rate are the higher risk of premature delivery among adolescent girls and the higher likelihood of obstructed labor due to adolescent mothers’ bodies not being fully developed and ready for childbirth.
In addition to my work volunteering at the hospital and the regional health director’s office, I also spent several days a week mentoring young girls at an afterschool center. Whether conducting computer trainings, discussing human rights, or providing sexual and reproductive health lessons, my main goal at the center was to encourage these young girls to stay in school, delay marriage and childbirth, and fulfill their dreams and aspirations. They understood that early marriage often meant dropping out of school, having babies before they were ready, and putting their very lives at risk with increased susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, as well as death or injury during pregnancy and childbirth. Furthermore, early marriage limits a young girl’s economic resources, social support, and autonomy, making her more vulnerable to gender-based violence, abuse, and abandonment than women who marry later in life. 
Not only does child marriage harm the young women and girls it touches, it also undermines U.S. foreign assistance. In 2007, for example, the U.S. spent over $450 million to support education, health and infant survival in the developing world. Yet, in many of the countries where this aid is directed, as many as 50% of girls are unable to take advantage of these programs because of child marriage.   Communities and entire nations cannot progress economically or socially when the common practice of early marriage threatens the well-being of young women and girls, denies them their basic human rights, and prevents them from realizing their full potential. 
Fortunately, this week, the U.S. Senate took a step forward in protecting young women and girls from early marriage by passing the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act. The legislation 1) identifies child/early marriage as a human rights violation to be addressed in  U.S. State Department country reports, 2) requires the U.S. Administration to create an action plan to combat child marriage, and 3) integrates child marriage prevention into existing U.S. development efforts.  Advocates for Youth applauds Senate passage of the bill and urges the House to do the same before the end of this Congressional session. This is not about politics; it’s about recognizing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls around the world.

Share This Article

Can you hear that high-pitched siren? See those flashing lights? Unlike the emergency broadcasts you sometimes see on t.v., this time you won’t hear that common refrain, “This is a test. This is only a test.” That’s because we’re experiencing a real emergency here. The U.S. is about to self-destruct and it’s all because of women. Yeah, women! Who knew? I mean, I know we’re powerful and all, but I had no idea that we could single-handedly destroy the universe.

Well, that’s what conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation believe. For the first time in eight long years, the U.S. Senate held a hearing on U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, or the Women’s Treaty). During the hearing, Steven Groves from the Heritage Foundation testified about all the evils that would be bestowed upon us if the U.S. took the radical approach of joining 186 other nations in supporting CEDAW. Apparently ratifying a treaty to protect and promote women’s rights simultaneously undermines and threatens those same rights. Wait, what? That is the most circular logic I’ve ever heard. Since when does access to educational opportunities, the right to vote, and the ability to own and inherit property pose a threat to women? How do laws protecting women from violence, sex trafficking, child marriage, and female genital cutting undermine women’s rights? Oh right, I forgot…we’d be subjecting ourselves to “scrutiny by a committee of gender experts that has established a record of promoting policies that do not comport with existing American norms and that encourages national governments to engage in social engineering on a massive scale.” I can’t believe I forgot that promoting the participation of women in the political process was counter to existing American norms! Who’s going to tell that to the millions of women who voted in the mid-terms? And how could I not realize that ratifying CEDAW would require the U.S. to abandon Mother’s Day? Silly me!

Think you’ve had enough? Not so fast, there’s more. Groves went on to testify that the U.S. already does a pretty good job of protecting and promoting women’s rights so there’s really no need to ratify CEDAW. He painstakingly points out all the federal laws that have helped advance women’s access to employment, compensation, housing, and education. So, what’s the problem? Why not just ratify the treaty then? Well, I guess it’s because he wants it both ways. On the one hand, CEDAW promotes policies that do not comport with existing American norms, but on the other hand, we have most of these protections ingrained in existing American law already anyway. Huh? I’m getting whiplash just trying to wrap my head around these competing arguments.  

Fortunately, Senator Dick Durbin, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, took Mr. Groves to task for his organization’s opposition to CEDAW. Remember that well-founded fear about a committee of gender experts engaging in social engineering on a massive scale? Well, Mr. Groves and his fellow CEDAW opponents claim that the CEDAW Committee is a quasi-judicial body whose recommendations carry more weight than they actually do. When challenged by Senator Durbin, Groves was forced to admit that the Committee’s reports are non-binding – “that’s why I said, ‘quasi-judicial.’” Durbin retorted, “I say it’s quasi-true!”

Of course, the hearing wasn’t just a series of animated exchanges between these two men (though there were plenty of them).  As Groves pointed out when he began his testimony, he was feeling a bit outnumbered in the room full of CEDAW supporters–so many supporters in fact that an overflow room had to be set up to accommodate them all.

Among the other influential witnesses was Melanne Verveer, Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, and Hollywood celebrity, Geena Davis, both of whom passionately urged ratification of CEDAW to help the U.S. promote and defend the rights of women across the globe. Perhaps most eloquent, however, was Wazhma Frogh, a leading women’s rights activist from Afghanistan. She shared her story of growing up under Taliban rule–the constant oppression, rampant acid burnings, and daily fear of attack just for wanting to go to school, to have a job, or to leave home without a male escort.  Using CEDAW as a framework, women in Afghanistan have been able to achieve rights unheard of just a decade ago. Their story is one of survival, but they cannot do it alone. She pointed to the fact that conservative elements in her country use the failure of the U.S. to ratify CEDAW as an excuse to commit further atrocities against women. “They constantly ask us ‘Why hasn’t the United States ratified CEDAW?’  They say that if the United States believes in women’s rights as a universal right, why haven’t they signed onto CEDAW? Today, we don’t have an answer.  Perhaps tomorrow, with your help, we can answer back.”

Want to help Ms. Frogh answer back? Do your part and show that you support women’s rights as human rights. Tell your Senators that young women and men, adult allies, and their constituents demand the U.S. ratification of CEDAW today!

And then call Senator Durbin (202-224-2152) to thank him for his support of CEDAW!

Share This Article

Janine Kossen, Advocates for Youth

Last week, promising news broke about a decline in global maternal mortality over the past 28 years. While this is indeed fantastic news and definitely a step in the right direction, the reality is that complications from pregnancy (including childbirth and unsafe abortion) are still the leading cause of death for young women aged 15-19. Furthermore, the abovementioned report makes note that progress in reducing maternal mortality would have been even greater had it not been for HIV/AIDS, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where the epidemic has taken a drastic toll on the lives of women, men, children, and youth.

Fortunately, U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke (D-11th NY) recognizes both the interconnectedness of health and human rights and the unique needs and power of global youth. This week, she introduced The Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act of 2010 (H.R. 5121), a groundbreaking piece of legislation that would fundamentally transform U.S. foreign assistance policy regarding sexual and reproductive health, bringing it in line with a rights-based approach.

Rep. Clarke’s bill would change the way the U.S. does business abroad by calling for the implementation of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health programs, including voluntary family planning, education and outreach, reduction of unsafe abortion, STI and HIV prevention, integration of services, training for health professionals, abandonment of harmful traditional practices, and provision of sexual and reproductive health services during emergencies. As such, it envisions a continuum of care that is responsive to the range of sexual and reproductive needs of individuals in the developing world.

The bill also draws special attention to serving the needs of young people by including a section specifically focused on the provision and promotion of sexual and reproductive health care for youth, including comprehensive sexuality education. Again recognizing the power of youth voices, the legislation also calls for the incorporation of young people’s recommendations in program design and delivery. Who knows better what youth need than youth themselves? Youth have been speaking out … it’s high time the rest of the world, including the U.S. Congress, heard their voices loud and clear!

Urge your Representative to co-sponsor the Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act!

Having served as a health volunteer with the Peace Corps in West Africa several years ago, I realize how important this bill is. While HIV infection rates are still comparatively low in West Africa compared to Southern Africa, there is still reason for great concern. Given economic, political, geographic, religious and cultural barriers, I found many young men and women in my community were unaware of their status, having never been tested or even knowing how or where to get tested in the first place, let alone understanding what services would be available to them should they test positive (or negative). Very few safe spaces existed to allow youth to learn about prevention or treatment efforts, share experiences, and advocate for their health and rights.

In addition to the silent HIV/AIDS epidemic I saw emerging, as a volunteer I also became extremely concerned about other health concerns that disproportionately affected youth. More often than not, I noticed that dire economic conditions spelled disaster for youth dreams and aspirations. Time and time again, I witnessed ambitious young students, mostly adolescent girls, dropping out of school not by choice, but out of necessity in order to feed their families, care for younger siblings, or even because they were forced into early marriage themselves. In some cases, I saw girls as young as 12 or 13 become brides to men in their 40s and 50s. Before they had even developed their own bodies and minds fully, they were having babies of their own due to rigid laws regulating access to contraception, inadequate information and education, and insufficient resources. Child marriage also put these young girls at greater risk of HIV infection, further exacerbating their health, education, and economic livelihoods.

Unfortunately, my experiences as a health volunteer weren’t unique. Worldwide, 45% of all new HIV infections occur among young people aged 15-24. Furthermore, each year, 15 million women aged 15-19 across the globe give birth, with 1/3 of women in the developing world having babies before the age of 20. In fact, my host mother, who was actually younger than I was at the time, had already had six children by the time she was 25. When I went back to visit her two years later, she confessed that she didn’t want to have any more children, but lacked the power, finances, and access to contraception to make that decision herself. Needless to say, it came as no surprise when my host father called a year later to tell me that I had a new baby sister. My heart sank, for I knew that any ambition my host mother had for herself and her children was rapidly slipping away.

The good news is we know what programs work and are starting to see a little glimmer of hope. Yet, there’s still a vast unmet need for services we haven’t been able to address. This is where YOU come in! Youth and adult allies have the power to be catalysts for change! Young people comprise nearly 50% of the world’s population. As such, decisions young people make today will affect the health and well-being of this planet for decades to come.

As the largest donor in the area of sexual and reproductive health, the United States has a unique role to play in averting unnecessary deaths and unintended pregnancies while promoting healthy sexual and reproductive health. As a signatory to several human rights instruments, the U.S. also has a legal obligation to ensure that its commitments are upheld. Ensuring that young people have the sexual and reproductive health information and services that they need to make healthy decisions is crucial to meeting the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating poverty, achieving universal education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, and ensuring environmental stability. Focusing on one to the exclusion of others is never going to make a dent in improving the situation of women, men, youth, and children across the globe.

Advocates for Youth has said it before and we’ll say it again…it’s all about Rights, Respect, Responsibility! Youth have the RIGHT to accurate and complete sexual health information. Youth deserve RESPECT. And society has the RESPONSIBILITY to provide young people with the tools they need to safeguard their sexual and reproductive health.

Thank you to Rep. Clarke and her co-sponsors for being strong advocates for youth!

Now, urge your Representative to support the effort by joining as a co-sponsor of the bill as well.