Girls Should be Students, not Brides

Shelter for survivors of forced marriage in Kaya city, northeast Burkina Faso.

By Naureen Shameem, Amnesty USA Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

What is it that enables you to make your life your own? Could you meaningfully choose your own life if your sphere of opportunity had been cut off as a child?

Globally, at least 25,000 children are married every day. 1 in 9 marry before the age of 15. Although the prevalence of child marriage worldwide has received more coverage in recent years, the rates remain staggering.

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How Toilets Can Make Schools Safer

This photo is of the Kobito / Kombito  2 settlement water source which shows there is household rubbish in it.  People drink the dirty water because the other option is to walk two kilometers to the next water source which is a broken pipe that has not been repaired by the Sol Is Water Authority (SIWA) for years.

Safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, collectively known as WASH, aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind for women’s rights advocates and activists, least of all during 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. Yet they are undoubtedly huge barriers to safety, equality and education for women and girls worldwide.

One of the most insidious impacts of lack of WASH is on girls’ educational access, success, and sense of safety. One in three people worldwide doesn’t have access to a decent toilet. In low-income countries it is estimated that nearly half of all schools don’t have safe drinking water, decent toilets or hygiene facilities on the premises.

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How to Access a Safe Education as a Girl-Child of War

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By Christina V. Harris, Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

Three years ago, a tenacious student in Pakistan named Malala Yousafzai brought to the world’s attention the hardship faced by millions of girls living in conflict zones around the world when she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban on her bus ride home from school. The Taliban had targeted Malala because of her advocacy for something that many of us take for granted: her right, and the right of all girls and conflict-affected children, to a safe education.

According to a recent joint report by UNICEF and UNESCO, one-half (nearly 30 million) of the world’s out-of-school children are those from war torn nations—and most are girls.

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Every Girl Deserves an Education—Make Sure She Can Get One!

Anonymous school children, all girls, in front of a blackboard at an unidentified school somewhere in Sierra Leone.

Anonymous school children, all girls, in front of a blackboard at an unidentified school somewhere in Sierra Leone.

Education is a human right. It is both a right in itself and also a pathway to the enjoyment of other rights. Education is also an inalienable right for every child, and every child deserves the opportunity to receive one.

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The Devastating Impact of Child Marriage on Girls Around the World

Shelter for survivors of forced marriage in Kaya city, northeast Burkina Faso.

October 11th marked the fifth year that the global community recognized International Day of the Girl Child, which the United Nations established to acknowledge girls’ rights and highlight the unique challenges girls face around the world. The list of challenges for girls is not short. Girls around the world are more likely to experience exclusion, discrimination, and gender-based violence than their male counterparts. They are also more likely to have unequal access to education and economic opportunities in the future.

The good news is that the world is paying closer attention to the rights of adolescent girls and, as a result, there have been some improvements over the decades. We have seen progress in girls’ education, and many countries have enacted laws to promote gender equality. At the same time, there are challenges for girls where change is insignificant or where progress is uneven: chief among them is early and forced child marriage. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Lucky To Be Alive – Despite Paraguay’s Restrictive Abortion Laws

Jandira Queiroz, activism and mobilization advisor at AI Brazil at the Paraguayan consulate, Rio de Janeiro, delivering signatures for pregnant 10-year-old gir'?s case. (Photo Credit: Anistia Internacional Brasil)

Jandira Queiroz, activism and mobilization advisor at AI Brazil at the Paraguayan consulate, Rio de Janeiro, delivering signatures for pregnant 10-year-old girs case. (Photo Credit: Anistia Internacional Brasil)

By Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

It was a situation almost too heart-wrenching to comprehend. In April this year came the news from Paraguay that “Mainumby” (not her real name) then a 10-year-old girl, had become pregnant after she was repeatedly raped, allegedly by her stepfather. The girl had been taken to hospital several times in a four-month-period before the pregnancy was discovered.

After finding out the horrific news, Mainumby’s mother, whose legal complaint against her daughter’s abuser had fallen on deaf ears, made a request to the authorities to allow her daughter to have an abortion. But the government refused it, and instead moved the girl into a home for young mothers.

The reason? Paraguay, like many other countries in Latin America, has some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws – where terminating a pregnancy is only allowed if the life of the pregnant woman is at risk. Authorities decided this case did not fall under the exception, despite the risk that a pregnancy poses to such a young girl’s physical and mental health.

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Take Action to End Child Marriage on International Youth Day

Indian groom puts vermilion on the forehead of his underage bride during a mass marriage in Malda, India 02 March 2006. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Groom and underage bride during a mass marriage in Malda, India. March 2, 2006. Child marriage, which is illegal under international law and prohibited in many countries, still impacts 15 million girls each year. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

In Malawi, Kalinde* was 15 years old when she was forced to marry due to her family’s poverty. She was told to respect her husband and never to deny him sex. Her husband’s work takes him away from their home for long periods of time, leaving her and their two children with nothing to live on. Kalinde’s husband also physically abuses her and has affairs with other women. As a result, Kalinde contracted HIV. In Kalinde’s words:

Marriage is not good for girls. There is no happiness. I want change for girls and that is why I want my story to be heard by all girls out there thinking of marriage.”

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It’s Time for Chile to Change Its Restrictive Abortion Laws

MBMR_Chile

By Leah Schmidt, Identity and Discrimination Unit, Amnesty International USA

In July 2013, an 11-year-old girl became pregnant after having been raped repeatedly for two years by her stepfather. However, ending the pregnancy was not an option for her. In Chile, where she lives, abortion is outlawed in all cases, even in cases of rape and even for children. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Did your Member of Congress Stand Up for Palestinian Children?

Nabi Saleh demonstrations.

On Friday, 19 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives urged Secretary of State John Kerry to defend the human rights of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.

Led by U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, the 19 Members of Congress signed a letter to the U.S. State Department that focuses on the thousands of Palestinian children who have been detained, interrogated, prosecuted, and/or imprisoned within the Israeli military justice system.

Here’s who signed: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Will Progressives in the U.S. Congress Support Palestinian Children’s Human Rights?

PalestineBlog

With just hours left before today’s deadline, 13 Members of Congress have now joined the call for Palestinian children’s human rights.

Led by U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, these elected officials are signing a letter (PDF) to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that urges him to raise the human rights of Palestinian children in his dealings with the Government of Israel.

Many – but not all – of the signers are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  But many members of the Progressive Caucus have yet to sign the letter. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST