|INDIA: A child bride attends the celebrations leading up to her wedding in the Rajgarh District of Madhya Pradesh State.|
Recently, two young girls made a very big stir in Yemen. Nujood, who is ten, and Arwa, nine, gained national attention when they very publicly left their husbands. Yes, you read correctly”they left their husbands. Both girls were married to much older men”marriages arranged by their families.
In Yemen”and a shocking number of other countries around the world”child marriage remains a widely accepted practice, especially in very poor and rural areas. There are a bunch of reasons parents may choose to marry off their daughters when they are quite young. Struggling, hungry families may decide they’d be better off with one fewer mouth to feed. Parents may think an early marriage will protect their daughters from random sexual assault. Or they may see these marriages as a way to ensure their daughters won’t become pregnant out of wedlock.
One thing is certain”for so many young girls, child marriage crushes their ability to create their own future. Young married girls usually stop attending school. They often become isolated from their family and friends, with playtime replaced by household chores. Girls married at a young age also face serious health risks from pregnancy and childbirth”a girl under age 16 is five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than a woman between the ages of 20 to 24.
UNICEF wants to see an end to early marriage, which robs girls of their childhoods. We’re working with government officials to change laws, and with communities to change cultures. We support programs, like this one in Bangladesh, that help empower teenage girls, give them leadership and life skills, and provide them with a supportive environment so they can make their own choices.
In Yemen specifically, UNICEF recently sponsored a workshop”with Members of Parliament, the Sharia Committee, doctors and human rights activists”to look at changing Yemen’s laws in order to better protect children. UNICEF’s Naseem Ur-Rehman said there are many cases like Nujood’s that go unnoticed. We want to end the silent suffering,