Somewhere in the world, a child is waking up on their wedding day.
It’s unthinkable – but it is the reality for millions. In fact, 12 million girls under 18 become child brides every year. And although boys are also married as children, child marriage is a global issue that disproportionately affects more girls (approximately 80%).
At the heart of this issue is gender inequality, which perpetuates the belief that girls are not as “valuable” as boys, and as such do not require the same access to rights. Other factors, such as poverty and lack of education, also contribute to child marriage rates around the world.
These Plan-supported youth in Malawi helped eliminate a loophole in the local marriage law which permitted girls to be married before age 18 with parental consent.
Plan International is working to protect children against early marriage, and thanks to the generous support of child sponsors, we’re continuously implementing programming that enables children and entire communities to exercise their rights to education, protection, health and livelihood.
In addition, the support and encouragement of generous sponsors is helping empower sponsored children to stand up for girls’ rights and inspire their community to do the same!
Meet just 3 of these inspiring children and see why they’re determined to create a brighter future.
Growing up as a sponsored child in Indonesia, Anisah saw many girls married and pregnant before they turned 18 and this fueled her determination to stay in school.
With the support of her parents and the encouragement of her sponsor, Anisah eventually graduated with a high school diploma and is now looking forward to giving back to others.
“My parents raised me and my sponsors supported me, and I want to pay back what they have done for me,” she says. “I want to go to college and educate myself. But first I want to do something to help my village.”
As a sponsored child and Because I am a Girl Ambassador, Anisah educates her community about the realities of child marriage and inspires girls to stay in school rather than get married.
“I’m teaching my friends about the dangers of getting married and having babies too young,” she says.
In addition, she’s working as a motivator for a parenting group in her village to help young mothers cope with the transition into motherhood, including caring for and nourishing their children.
“If you ask me where I learned all these things, I say that I learned it from Plan International,” she says. “I want to study nutrition, so I can continue to help young mothers and babies.”
As a sponsored child from Bangladesh and a member of a community youth group supported by Plan International, Lakkhan advocates on issues related to birth registration, stopping child marriage and ending violence against women.
To raise awareness of these important issues, Lakkhan helps organize short theatrical plays that are put on for the community to demonstrate the negative effects of local issues like child marriage and gender inequality.
“Sometimes, based on our experiences, we identify different social problems for the shows,” says Lakkhan, “We attract people of different ages and classes, all people who can understand our message,” she adds.
Educating and empowering his community is the goal of the theatre, and Lakkhan feels all his hard work pays off when audiences can understand the issues and put their learnings into practice. Lakkhan feels very strongly about the issue of birth registration in particular and hopes one day all children will be registered at birth to help protect them from early marriage, trafficking and child labour.
“Each and every child’s right is the right to birth registration,” he says. “[A] birth registration card will help that child … kind of like a friend.”
A fighter in every sense of the word, Keya is a sponsored child in Bangladesh who knows her right to decide her own future.
“Girls should make their own decisions,” she says. “I make mine.”
Through access to education and Plan International-supported peer groups, Keya and other children in her community are learning more about their rights. Our programming encourages group discussions and various activities that help break down gender stereotypes, bolster confidence and empower girls to challenge conventional norms, including child marriage.
In Keya’s case, she’s picked up a passion for karate, and it’s motivating her to live the kind of life she wants.
“I want to complete my studies and then think about marriage,” she says.
Not only is Keya using karate as a tool for self-defence and empowerment, she’s also leading by example – inspiring other girls to stand up for their rights and take charge of their own lives! In addition, she’s working closely with local leaders to help put an end to child marriage in her community.
“We have discussed the child marriage issue with government officials and the local police station,” she says, adding that authorities now respond to reports of child marriage in the community.”
HELPING CHILDREN REACH THEIR FULL POTENTIAL
When children know their rights, they are able to advocate for themselves and carve out a future of their choosing! That’s why Plan International is working around the world to empower children and rally communities to lead change for future generations.
Of course, we wouldn’t be able to do this without supporters like you. If you want to help more children stay in school and reach their full potential then find out more about how Child Sponsorship can be a powerful tool for change.
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