January 23, 2014

Gambian girl campaigns against child marriage after refusing to leave school

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

At 14 years old, Ramatoulie Jallow was told she had to get married and could no longer go to school in the Gambia.

Devastated, she stood up to her father and refused to accept that her dreams of one day becoming a doctor would be squandered at such a young age.

It is estimated, globally, that more than 25,000 are forced into marriage every day. In the Gambia, child marriage is often perceived as the only way out of poverty, as families typically receive money in exchange for their daughters.

Ramatoulie's father told her: “You can no longer go to school. You are an only child and the only way for us to get money is if you get married.”

The prospect of ending her childhood at the age of 14 drove the teenager to seek the help of her teachers and local charities.

ChildFund, an international NGO working with local communities in the Gambia, supported Ramatoulie and provided her with the funds needed to stay in school.

Now Ramatoulie has become an avid child rights activist, fighting to end the deeply-embedded practice of child marriage in her country.

Her message to girls facing similar situations is simple. She says:  “You have the right to education and if anything is hindering your academic or social development you have the right to speak out."

You can watch Ramatoulie tell her story in CNN’s Freedom Project, a campaign that highlights success stories and amplifies the voices of victims of modern-day slavery.

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