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Not Just the New Fashion

By: Dr. Denise Raquel Dunning, Founder and Executive Director, Let Girls Lead, Champions for Change and Youth Champions Iniative; Originally posted by Impatient Optimists

‘Fashion week’ just ended for the global development community, when thousands of international leaders convened in New York for the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Presidents, ministers, donors, UN leaders, and CEOs celebrated the newest designs in global development: stylish poverty reduction plans, glamorous partnerships to prioritize girls’ education, and beautiful spokespeople for the latest hot issues like climate change and child trafficking. Read more...

Zimbabwe: Let Girls be Girls, Not Brides

By: Katja Iversen, CEO, Women Deliver and Yemurai Nyoni, Founder of the Rising Birds Project and Women Deliver Young Leader; Originally posted by AllAfrica

Tecla, a young Zimbabwean girl, was sold for a few cows by her father to help alleviate the family's poverty. She was raped by her husband, became pregnant and contracted HIV. Her baby died soon after birth. Tecla was only 12-years-old. At an age when she should have been in school learning and dreaming, Tecla became a child bride. Read more...

Lessons Learned in Building Up Youth Groups to Fight Dowry and Early Marriage

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: SM Shaikat, SERAC-Bangladesh

Writing a good story is much easier than making it happen. There are many challenges to creating lasting change, especially when it comes to changing a society’s cultural norms.

To start, the goal of my Jagoroni project is to create a social movement against the century old dowry custom and child marriage trend in Bangladesh. The motivation for this project came in February when I heard the Law Minister say that my district, Mymensingh, has the highest rate of dowry violence in Bangladesh. For me, it was not easy to accept. Read more...

Celebrate Solutions: Girl Advocates Fighting Child Marriages in Malawi

By: Rehema Namukose, Women Deliver

Malawi is one of the top ten hotspots of child marriage worldwide, with five out of every ten girls married off before the age of 18. This is majorly attributed to strong taboos around child and early marriage practices such as the Kusasa Fumbi practice, in which girls (usually aged 10-12) who have just begun their menstrual cycles  have sex with a man as a way of removing “childhood dust;” Chitomero, another common practice that encourages parents to offer dowry to an older man who agrees to marry their young daughter; and kupimbira, a practice in the northern part of Malawi where a young daughter is married off as repayment for a debt.

These practices expose girls to HIV and sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), denying much the chance to finish school and exposing them to higher risks of maternal mortality due to early pregnancies. Child and early marriages violate a girl’s right to education and choice on who and when to get married, perpetuating poverty levels among various communities. Read more...

11 Days of Action for International Day of the Girl Child

Adolescence is a critical time in a girl’s life, when choices and opportunities define the present and future of the world. While half of the world’s population is under 30, mostly living in developing countries, young people – specifically young women – face barriers to realizing their rights and full potential. From child marriage and unintended pregnancy to lack of education and exposure to violence, girls are often compromised from a safe and healthy transition from childhood to adulthood. Read more...

Giving Young People a Fighting Chance

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Yemurai Nyoni, Bulawayo Youth Development Organization (Zimbabwe)

I grew up under difficult circumstances. My three siblings and I were raised by a single mother, my brothers taunted me constantly and I bore witness to the vulnerability of my little sister. From these experiences, I learned how to stand up for and defend myself and speak out against injustices endured by others. I became a firm believer in progressive alternatives to restrictive societal norms, especially those that limit opportunity and equality for women. 

In my home country of Zimbabwe, child marriage is a particularly egregious problem. 1 in 3 girls are married before 18 years of age, and 90 percent of adolescent pregnancies occur among girls who are married or in unions. Taking girls from their families threatens their health and educational development and violates their rights as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Read more...

Girls and Women Need Access to Education and #SRHR to Become Fully Empowered

New impact evaluation (IE) briefs released by the World Bank Group (WBG) highlight the best global strategies to empower girls and women in the world today. Published on August 11th in anticipation of International Youth Day on August 12th, the briefs shed light on interventions tackling current social issues young people, especially girls and young women, face, and showcase what works best to empower them.

The IEs support WBG’s twin corporate goals that aim to educate, empower and employ today’s generation of young people, the largest ever in decades. The briefs, also accessible through enGENDER IMPACT,   echo multiple approaches and strategies in addressing three critical social issues: ensuring access to education, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and ending child marriages.

According to the WBG, the IEs take a deeper independent analysis of each of these social issues, giving recommendations on what works best in all the intervention areas. Below are excerpts from the IEs: Read more...

Celebrate Solutions: “Dropping the Knife” Celebrations as Alternatives to FGM in The Gambia

By: Lindsay Menard-Freeman, Women Deliver

Bat mitzvah. Sweet sixteen. Quinceañera. Russefeiring. Ceremonies to celebrate rites of passage are often an energetic party, defining a coming of age moment and cultivating a sense of hope for the future. These celebrations also often serve as a marker of maturity and preparedness for the “real world.”

Yet for millions of girls, their rite of passage includes a serious violation of their basic human rights through female genital mutilation (FGM). Current trends suggest that at least 30 million girls will be at risk for FGM over the next decade. An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM, with 92 million over the age of 10 and residing on the African continent. Read more...

For a Better World for All

By: Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, UNFPA and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women; Originally posted on The Huffington Post

It is now 100 long days since the abduction of 276 girls from their school in Chibok in northern Nigeria shocked and outraged the world. While a few of the girls have managed to escape their captors, the majority remain separated from their shattered families.

It is the nature of news - and, sadly, terrible events happening elsewhere -- that the Chibok girls, and indeed, more Nigerian girls who have been kidnapped since, are no longer in the global spotlight. We must not forget them, and we must keep demanding action to bring back our girls. Read more...

When You Invest In Girls and Women, Everybody Wins

By: Katja Iversen; Originally posted by Huffington Post

Katja Iversen is the CEO of Women Deliver

After she got married, she had to drop out of 7th grade.

This is the beginning of a story I heard at the +SocialGood event last month from Miriam Enerstrida, a young woman who escaped child marriage in Zambia. When she was in 7th grade, Miriam was sold into marriage. Her husband's family kept her in their basement, naked, so she could not run away. When she asked about going back to school, she said she was beaten and they made her repeat the phrase "school is for boys and not for the girl child."

I'm sure just by reading this you can tell what is wrong here. Although marriage below the age of 18 is not permitted in most countries, social norms and discriminatory laws often allow the practice to continue even where laws are on the books. Every day, 39,000 girls under the age of 18 will be forced into early marriage. One in seven girls living in developing countries is married before her 15th birthday.

The real question is: Why?

Child marriage is not only wrong from a legal and human rights perspective, but also from a broader economic and developmental perspective. When girls are married young, they are more likely to drop out of school; more likely to acquire HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections; and more likely to live their lives in poverty - a poverty that often is passed on to their children. Read more...

Celebrate Solutions: A True Story of A Child Bride from New York

By: Tyler LePard; Catapult

This year, 14 million girls – some as young as eight years old – will be married against their will, often to men decades older than themselves. Some girls are so young that they hold on to their toys during the wedding ceremony. The recent death of an eight year old Yemeni girl on her wedding night from internal bleeding, after a forced marriage to a man five times her age has caused a global outcry and re-energized commitment to ending this horrific human rights abuse. Read more...

Jagoroni: The Rising of a Movement against Dowry and Early Marriage

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: SM Shaikat, SERAC-Bangladesh

Early marriage and dowry-related violence are harmful practices, but they are common in Bangladesh. When girls marry, they often drop out of school and have limited social interaction. Currently, just 45% of adolescent girls are enrolled in secondary school, and even fewer attend regularly. Domestic violence occurs all too often and with impunity. From January to September 2013, 265 cases of violence against women occurred; 128 women died from physical torture, but just 111 cases were filed against the perpetrators.

Most cases of marriage-related violence are never reported and some are intentionally covered up. Until recently, no group existed in Bangladesh that could track and prevent these types of gender violence. To address this situation, I developed a project called Jagoroni, a Bengali word that means “rising.” I’m creating a youth-led watchdog system to eliminate dowry- and child marriage-related violence against girls and women in Mymensingh district, which has the highest rates of violence in the country. Read more...

We Have the Power to End Child Marriage

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By; Yemurai Nyoni, Bulawayo Youth Development Organization (Zimbabwe)

When Tecla woke up, she carried out her chores with a little more urgency than usual. She was starting a new job to raise money for her school fees, so she couldn’t afford to be late. When she had finished collecting water, cleaning the house and preparing breakfast, she left with her mother to meet her employers.

As they walked together, she felt happy. The money she would earn as a maid would help her parents send her to school. She would be like the other children in Epworth. She could play games, listen to exciting stories and achieve her dream of being a teacher. As her thoughts turned into a pleasant day-dream, she was brought back to reality by her mother’s voice as she said nervously, “tasvika” (we’ve arrived).

Now her joy turned to fear, because of the tone of her mother’s voice, but also as she thought of the enormity of the task ahead. She was going to be a maid for a family she had never met, and at 12 years old, she felt she wasn’t ready. Nonetheless, she followed obediently behind her mother, the woman who had sacrificed so much for her. Read more...

Youth-Led Project in Bangladesh Wins Online Voting Competition

Women Deliver is pleased to announce the “Social Rising for Dowry and Early Marriage Prevention” project by S M Shaikat from Bangladesh as the winner of the C-Exchange Seed Grant competition. After almost 1,500 people voted, S M Shaikat will receive an additional US$500 to implement his project to monitor and prevent early marriage and dowry violence. This competition was held with the support of the Women Deliver C-Exchange, a Women Deliver-led private sector forum that includes Johnson & Johnson, WomanCare Global, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, GE, HRA Pharma Foundation, MTV Staying Alive Foundation, and Merck (known as MSD outside the United States). Read more...

Denise Dunning Unlocks Girl Power Through Let Girls Lead

By: Stacy Teicher Khadaroo; Originally posted by The Christian Science Monitor

To help girls stay in school, women and girls in Malawi are taking a stand against child marriages. So far they have persuaded leaders in 22 villages to penalize men who try to marry a woman under age 21. One possible penalty? Taking away some of the man's goats or chickens.

It's the kind of strategy that probably wouldn't have occurred to a US-based nonprofit. But in countries where girls and women bear the brunt of poverty, Let Girls Lead, an Oakland, Calif.-based initiative founded by Denise Dunning, helps them amplify their voices and broaden their hopes, turning small victories into large-scale changes. Read more...

CFR Launches Interactive Guide on Child Marriage

Originally posted by Council on Foreign Relations

A new interactive guide from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) examines the threat that child marriage poses both to the prosperity and stability of the countries in which it is prevalent and to U.S. development and foreign policy interests. "Child marriage is linked to poor health, curtailed education, violence, and instability, and perpetuates an intergenerational cycle of poverty that is difficult to break, as the InfoGuide shows," said CFR Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy Rachel B. Vogelstein, formerly director of policy and senior adviser on global women's issues at the U.S. State Department. "Its effects harm not only girls but entire families, communities, and economies—and U.S. interests around the world." Read more...

African Ministers of Health and Education Commit to End Child Marriage by 2020

By: Yemurai Nyoni, WD 100 Young Leader and Youth SRHR Advocate; Originally posted by FHI 360

Ministers of Health and Education from 21 countries in the East and Southern African region have committed to end child marriage as part of a broader commitment to ensure comprehensive sexuality education for young people in the region by 2015. The commitment was endorsed on the 7th of December 2013 during the on-going 17th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa and is titled the ‘Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern African (ESA). Read more...

Ending Motherhood in Childhood

By: Lynn ElHarake, Council on Foreign Relations; Originally posted by Council on Foreign Relations

Emerging Voices features contributions from scholars and practitioners highlighting new research, thinking, and approaches to development challenges. This article is by Lynn ElHarake, research associate for CFR’s Women and Foreign Policy Program. Here she discusses how motherhood in childhood undermines economic growth, health, gender equality, and development.

Last month, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) published a report on the tragic consequences of unplanned adolescent pregnancies around the world. The report, Motherhood in Childhood: Facing the challenge of adolescent pregnancy, begins with a sober introduction by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. He writes, “When a girl becomes pregnant, her present and future change radically, and rarely for the better. Her education may end, her job prospects evaporate, and her vulnerabilities to poverty, exclusion and dependency multiply.” Read more...

On the International Day of the Girl, a Reminder to Let Girls Lead

By: Joanna Hoffman, Women Deliver

Today marks the second-ever International Day of the Girl, a call to action for the rights of girls worldwide. This year’s theme, “Innovating for Girls’ Education”, is representative of current global development needs, all of which center around girls’ access to education. When girls are educated, they are less likely to become child brides, less likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth, less likely to be infected with HIV, and more likely to have healthy children and long, empowered lives. Simply put, educating girls is a win for the entire world. Read more...

The World We Want: An End to Child Marriage

Originally posted on Girls Not Brides

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended that a new agenda for international development should ensure the empowerment, wellbeing and social protection of the world’s most vulnerable people. In a commentary for the renowned medical journal The Lancet, three prominent figures in international development argue that to translate these principles into action and tangible results, we must end child marriage. Read more...

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