What were you doing as an 8 year old girl?

Maybe you had just started second grade, getting an education, having fantasy Tea-Tuesday picnics and playing with imaginary friends in the garden in the guard of your parents watching your every move -entertaining themselves with the day's newspaper whilst smiling over it's brim every 2 seconds to make sure you were okay; safe and sound. 

Or were you forced into an early marriage at the tender age of 8, where a few hours after the wedding ceremony found your young self being physically, emotionally and mentally assaulted, viciously and brutally sexually harassed by your male companion [now husband] who is 40 years older. A pain so complex - no child is meant to experience, but this is a reality for many young girls from as young as 6 years old in countries where child marriage is ruled  legal. 

On the 6th of June 2014, an 8 year old child bride from Northwestern Yemen, Hardh in the Middle East, died on her wedding night after suffering internal injuries and sexual trauma from her betrothed husband. This particular incident sparked international outrage and called for global outcry to #EndChildMarriage in Yemen. It is believed the young girl died due to internal bleeding which was the result of sexual intercourse that tore her uterus and other organs.

It is not the first child marriage case to happen in Yemen nor around the world in countries where child marriage is still legal.  

“According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), between 2011 and 2020, more than 140 million girls will become child brides. Furthermore, of the 140 million girls who will marry before the age of 18, 50 million will be under the age of 15.”
Generally, we concede and acknowledge poverty as the primary reason why child marriage continues to happen, as the parents believe marrying them off to wealthy men or spouses that have the ability to protect them economically - will secure their daughters futures. This being relatively translated as girls can be seen as an economic burden, as a commodity, means of settling debt or disputes and means of securing political, social and economic alliances. We've seen most of these despicable trades happen after natural disasters such as the war in Syria, food in-secure Kenya, Young girls married off to "Tsunami widowers" in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India as a way to obtain state subsidies. Conflicts in Sudan, Uganda and Liberia where girls were abducted and given as "bush wives" to war lords by their families as means to secure protection. Abduction of over 250 girls in Nigeria as belief by Boko Haram that girls should be settled into early marriage instead of getting an education and the list goes on and on and on. Because a marriage fee is generally paid to the family of the child bride in favour of the union., In other countries this is can easily be titled as "Slavery", "Prostitution", "Rape" and other derogatory terms used when a person is forced into sexualy enticed engagements due to socio-economic and econo-politic pressure by those they are being traded by.

The children [below the age of 18] willingly accept marriage as their allotted fate. This element of coercion is then often involved when families apply social or emotional pressure or urge marriage for economic reasons or further advocate marriage as in the (misguided) that such a union will keep their daughters safe. In other countries, it is said blessings come when a child is married off before their first menstruation. There are many conspiracies as to why child marriage is made legal in over 100 countries around the world, but with economies that believe in the girl child WE [citizens of global economies, where child marriage is an abomination and strictly illegal] need to join forces in advocating for the ending of child marriages in developing countries for we have seen first hand the differences between a child with a well upbringing and one of that given to early marriage at a tender age.

Child marriage is a violation of human rights and a deterrent to development: Child marriage is a violation of article 16(2) of the Universal declaration of human rights, which states that “marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.” article 16 of the convention on the elimination of all Forms of discrimination against Women (cedaW) states that women should have the same right as men to “freely choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent”, and that the “betrothal and marriage of a child shall have no legal effect” -  UNFPA

Yemen child rights advocate Ahmed Al-Qureshi, instead of demanding more transparency from officials on reports leading to the international story. There should be a call to end child marriage policies in the country.People who have interests and belief in protecting the girl child - as we strongly believe that such practises not only result the child bride being subjected to physical, emotional and sexual violence in their forced marriages - but they lose access to health and most importantly education and economic independence in the future, with out these 3 elements; the child will not have the ability to leave the marriage as they grow older for they will have not learned how to think, live and respond to nature independently. Therefore this will continue to breed a future of more children sold to early marriage by their families. This will be a ripple effect of current proceedings and one that has and will continue being viewed as a norm - which is, but should NOT be!

Call to Action: Young women [and men] in countries where such practices are being condoned need to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves for fear and/or virtue of not being heard and work towards getting policies, legislation and regulations leading to Human Rights and the Protection Women and Children changed. Where the laws to be made are deemed favorable to young women and girls. With such - youth activists [Global Shapers Communities in the Middle East, One Young World Ambassadors and Ilive2Lead International Ambassadors around the world et al] need to forward the proposals and petitions to protect its girls from the devastating effects of early marriage by setting 18 as the minimum age for marriage by law.

Imagine, 8 years old getting married and dying a few hours later due to sexual brutality or having to wed off your own 7 year old daughter 9 years later? This act is a violation of human rights and a deterrent for development of of young women, girls and boys who are exposed to the life threatening and burdening experience. 

Help us advocate for the liberation of young brides in over 100 foreign countries around the world and let us via twitter @ZaneleMabaso23 #EndChildMarriage  

Zanele Mabaso is an ardent advocate for the global youth community, with primary interest in sexual reproductive health, education and economic empowerment of young women and girls in Africa. A member of the Global Shapers Community, Tshwane Hub in South Africa and One Young World Ambassador, Zanele is determined to lead were governed for the liberation and Human Rights Representation of women around the world. She is the Global Ambassador for ILive2Lead International and strongly believes that exceptional young women leaders need to take the authority of being free - to inspire, motivate and lead those who are not as privileged.