May 05, 2015

Campaigning in Yemen for girls’ education and to end child marriage

Amani Abdulrahman

Global Youth Ambassador from Yemen

Child marriage in Yemen

Child marriage in my country remains persistent. One-third of girls, especially in rural cities, are married before the age of 18 -  with one in nine marrying before they are 15.

Girls with four or five years of schooling are up to five times more likely to marry young than girls with secondary education. Child marriage often constitutes a violation of the rights of girls who are encouraged or even forced to marry early.

This practice is driven by poverty, cultural and social norms, and pervasive discrimination against girls. Child brides are almost always forced to drop out of school. This not only limits girls’ own future prospects, but also their ability to contribute to their countries’ broader social and economic goals.

Child marriage also has negative health impacts on girls. It increases girls’ risk of violence, abuse and HIV infection. It often leads to early pregnancy as well.

I was astonished when I visited my village, because I found many uneducated young girls are married and some of them are pregnant. This stimulated me to support education and  to stand against early marriage.

I explained to them and their families the dangers of early marriage and the importance of education - but they didn't care. At the beginning, I worked alone as I gave lectures about human development and education for women in my city and in rural areas, to encourage the rural girls to complete their education.

Yemeni women attend a showing of a film about child marriage in Sanaa in 2014

After seeing the influence of education on me, some people - like my uncle - encouraged their daughters to complete their education to be educated like me.

In 2014 A World at School chose me to be a Global Youth Ambassador. This has given me strength to complete my work to support of education and to destroy all its barriers.

Since then, I have had discussions about education in Yemen in different institutes and held campaigns to support the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped. I have supported education in different places in Taiz. And I asked many people to sign the #UpForSchool Petititon.

In March I carried out campaigns in different provinces and rural cities to support girls' education and I am going to hold a workshop in Taiz to discuss our role standing up against early marriage. The participants will be judges, journalists, lawyers, students and some civil organisations.

I am also helping to establish institutions to care about my community problems and to support my project, which cares about education and wants to put an end to early marriage. But this has been delayed since we are at a war in my country.

As I am working with lawyers, I am going to continue my campaigns and hold lectures and workshops in different cities. We are going to try to ask the government to punish anyone who stands against the law which states that the minimum age for marriage is 18.

With the help of the media, we are going to campaign on the importance of girls' education and the danger of early marriage.

This is only the beginning. I won’t cease to give my all until I have realised my dream.

You can follow Amani on Twitter.

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