Target: Faith Pansy Tlakula, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Goal: End the child marriage epidemic and support equal education for girls
One-third of the world’s girls are married before the age of 18. That number increases dramatically for girls and young women born into poverty, especially rampant in rural areas of Africa. The country has one of the most prevalent child marriage epidemics, with over 70 percent of the female population 18 and under married off to suitors as young as 10 years old.
According to Human Rights Watch, child marriage in Africa is proving to be more than an epidemic, it is also linked to vast inequalities in education and, in turn, could also be linked to economic hardship. Many girls and young women in areas like South Sudan, Malawi, and Tanzania dream of going to school, obtaining an education and going to university. These dreams are thwarted when their teenaged years are stolen from them and they are forced into marriages with men as old as 40. These girls also endure constant sexual and physical violence at the hands of their controlling spouses, perpetuating an ongoing cycle of emotional, psychological and physical abuse.
Child marriage continues to be one of the main barriers in the fight for equal education. A study conducted by the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative found that if child marriages and early pregnancies could be dramatically decreased, it could cut the gender gap in education by 50 percent. Few girls return to school after marriage because they lack money and child care resources. Other girls have no access to flexible educational programs, like adult classes or even night classes, to continue their education. What’s more is that some girls are forbidden to attend schools because their husbands or in-laws won’t allow it.
In the most high risk areas, like Tanzania and Malawi, government officials have actively blocked girls’ access to education with ridiculous regulations. If a student becomes pregnant or married, she is forced to conclude her education with little to no help in seeking readmission. It should be a universal fact that an education is one of the few things that stops the cycle of poverty and allows girls and young women to lead fulfilling, independent and worthwhile lives.
Sign the petition to support equal education and end the child marriage epidemic in Africa.
Dear Faith Pansy Tlakula,
Child marriage in Africa has reached the point of a full-blown epidemic. More than 70 percent of the female population, aged 18 and under, are forced into marriages at ages as young as 10. Poverty is a huge factor in the perpetuation of this epidemic, but no girl should be forced to give up her educational dreams in pursuit of financial gain for her impoverished family. Education is one of the few things that’s essential to ending the cycle of poverty. When forced into a loveless marriage for extravagant dowries, girls not only lose their innocent identities and self-worth, but they also stunt their educational growth.
The African governments should be doing more to address this issue and raise awareness of the harmful emotional, physical and mental effects of child marriage on these girls and young women. The education gap between genders is preposterous, and there are even some governments actively preventing girls from obtaining an education. This must end now.
I urge you to recognize this issue and take the necessary legal steps to abolish this epidemic. Girls deserve to fulfill their educational goals and dreams, and reach their full potential. Free, compulsory education shouldn’t be a privilege — it is a right.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Ernst Vikne via Wikimedia Commons