No place for child brides in our world
Young activist Malala says education is key to saving girls from forced marriage
The world must stamp out child marriages and provide young girls with an education so they can live a better life.
This was the message yesterday from Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who told a conference in Sharjah that too many people in her homeland of Pakistan, and other countries, allow the archaic practice to continue.
The 19-year-old campaigner, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for speaking out about children’s education, said learning is key to empowering young women to shape their future.
And she told the conference how the issue of child brides is close to her heart because of what happened to a childhood friend.
Malala said: “I remember that my very close friend was forced to get married when she only 11. I remember many young women relying on their brothers and fathers for a living if they got divorced or if their husbands passed away – which is why I know that quality education for girls isn’t just reading books or passing exams.
“It’s empowerment, freedom and nourishment – it’s independence and the ability to stand on their own two feet.”
She added: “I cannot imagine myself for a second without an education. We need to inspire women to be beyond limits – to do that we need women empowerment.”
The UN Population Fund states that an estimated 17.4 million girls under 18 are married each year – that’s 47,000 per day. The practice is most prevalent in subSaharan African countries, with 75 per cent of girls married before 18 in Niger. More than 66 per cent of girls are married before 18 in Bangladesh and in India the figure is 47 per cent, according to the International Research Centre on Women. Malala’s father, Zaiuddin Yousafzai, spoke to 7DAYS about his daughter’s friend, who “suddenly disappeared” from their hometown in Swat Valley. Yousafzai said: “Malala went looking for her and she called her several times. “Then, one day, we found out that she was forced into marrying an older man. “This stopped her education and she was forced to do many things she wasn’t meant to do at that age. “Child marriage is a problem in parts of Pakistan, other parts of Asia and Africa. “There needs to be an immediate end to child marriage.”
CHILD BRIDE: A 15-year-old Bangladeshi girl prepares for her marriage to a 32-year-old man. Almost a third of girls in the country marry before the age of 15