Girls Should be Students, not Brides

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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

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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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When Educating Girls Means Putting Your Life on the Line

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Fawzia Nawabi, investigator at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Mazar-e-Sharif, gathers information in a local women's prison.

Fawzia Nawabi, investigator at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Mazar-e-Sharif, gathers information in a local women’s prison.

By Elsie De Laere, Afghanistan country specialist

In Afghanistan, standing up for women’s rights means putting your life on the line—this includes the educators who “dare” to educate girls.

This 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, we are highlighting the critical role of access to education for girl children—as well as the barriers to this right. And in Afghanistan, the threat to women’s rights defenders—including educators—is a huge barrier to girl children accessing their fundamental right to education.

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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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Will you stand with Teodora?

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Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, one of 12 cases in Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign this fall, has been in prison since 2008 because she suffered a still-birth.  

Teodora still has 23 more years to serve out of a 30-year prison sentence, which is supported by El Salvador’s draconian abortion law. El Salvador has a total ban on abortion, meaning that abortion is illegal even if a woman’s or girl’s life or health is at risk, if the fetus is not viable, or if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.
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Every Girl Deserves an Education—Make Sure She Can Get One!

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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

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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

How Some of the World’s Most Restrictive Abortion Laws Turn Women Into Criminals

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Ireland, El Salvador, and Chile share a deplorable commonality — the governments of all three countries have enacted draconian and harmful abortion laws that put women’s and girls’ lives at risk. Today, on September 28th, the Global Day of Action to Decriminalize Abortion, we join with people and organizations around the world to demand an end to these dangerous laws. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Ordered Rape of Dalit Sisters Highlights Severe Caste and Gender Discrimination in India

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By Gopika Bashi, @gopikabashi, Women’s Rights Researcher, Amnesty International India

On 24 August, Amnesty International India launched a petition regarding two Dalit sisters who had been ordered to be raped and paraded naked by a khap panchayat – an unelected village council – in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh in northern India, as ‘punishment’ because their brother had eloped with a married woman from a dominant caste.

Amnesty offices around the world circulated similar petitions, so that our supporters globally would have an opportunity to take action. Over 500,000 people have so far signed these petitions.

Some media organizations have subsequently released reports which have questioned the petition. Some have said that members of the gram panchayat – the elected village council – and members of the dominant caste have denied the allegations. Others have claimed that Amnesty did not investigate the case.

Unfortunately, these reports have taken the attention away from the situation of the sisters themselves, who along with their family still fear for their safety. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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

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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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