Malala tells Girl Summit: getting girls in school can stop child marriage

Child labour, Girls' education

Malala Yousafzai has told the Girl Summit 2014 that getting girls into school is the most effective way to stop child marriage.

The Pakistani teenager addressed delegates from 50 countries at the London gathering aimed at tackling early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Malala said: “Education is the best way we can fight all the problems we’re discussing now.”

She said child marriage in her home country was driven by tradition, poverty and lack of education. But she said traditions could be overturned.

Malala – who just over a year ago famously addressed the United Nations on the importance of education – added: “Traditions are not sent from heaven, they are not sent from God.

“(It is us) who make cultures. We have the right to change it and we should change it. Those traditions that go against the health of girls, they should be stopped.”

The inaugural Girl Summit was co-hosted by the UK Government and the UN's children's rights agency UNICEF. 

British Prime Minister David Cameron called for a worldwide ban on female genital mutilation and child marriage. He also announced that parents in the UK would face prosecution for failing to prevent their daughters from being subjected to FGM.

Film star Freida Pinto, who appeared in the movie Slumdog Millionaire, also addressed the summit and called for more action to prevent FGM.

Another speaker was Angeline Murimirwa, Regional Director in Africa for Camfed, which educates girls and supports young women to help tackle poverty in rural communities.

She said: “I have seen first-hand the cruel dilemma families living in poverty face, as they struggle to provide for their children. There is no lack of aspiration among these families. I also know from experience, for I was once a girl with no hope of secondary school education, until Camfed came in to support my family.

“Our film, The Child Within, explores child marriage from the perspective of girls in Malawi. The minutiae of each girl’s life is unique to them but the context of poverty has shaped all their lives. We are working with them and others in similar circumstances across five countries so that they can reclaim and rebuild their lives. If we are serious about ending child marriage, we need to be serious about getting every girl into school.”

You can watch The Child Within on the Camfed website.

UNICEF says more than 700 million women worldwide were married as children. And more than 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of FGM in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is most common.


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