Tears of a Child Bride

Posted by Bronwyn Newnham on

When my husband and I were just married we went to see his birthplace in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a colourful place with amazing food, stunning scenery and rivers so wide I could not see the other side.

One of my memories of being there was watching a young bride get ready for her marriage ceremony. She was a beautiful young girl, I think around 16 years old. The Bangladeshi 'make-up' artist was smoothing a turmeric mixture onto her skin which made her glow a gorgeous golden colour. She was dressed in a red sari which had her dowery embroidered into the fabric. All through these preparations, she was quietly crying, with tears running down her cheeks. In Bangladesh, girls are expected to cry when they leave their parents to wed, but these tears came from deep inside this young girl and I wondered who she was being wedded to. He arrived dressed in white and riding on a white horse. All around him were people blowing horns and beating drums. He looked around 30 years old. 

It is estimated that worldwide 15 million girls each year are married before they have reached 18.  According to UNICEF research, of the worlds 1.1 billion girls under 18, 22 million are already married. The major cause of child brides is gender inequality and poverty. Once married it is difficult for them to go to school and gain skills which increase their ability to earn an independent income. A child bride is more likely to be a victim of domestic violence. A girl who marries as a child is much more likely to live in poverty, more likely to be a child mother and much more likely to die in childbirth. Trauma in childbirth is the biggest cause of death in teenage girls the developing world

Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance
— Kofi Annan, Ghanaian diplomat and former Secretary-General of the United Nations

This is clothing made in Ghana. The organisation was founded in 2003 by just 6 women but now provides work for over 550 women. Through the FairTrade manufacture of their products the women who work for Global Mamas earn more than 75% more than the minimum wage in Ghana.

The Global Mamas all have a unifying dream and that is to provide education for their families, including their daughters. In Ghana, school fees, including uniforms and books, account for a large portion of a family’s household expenses. As children get older, the cost of tuition increases significantly. Consequently, many families cannot afford to support their children past junior high school. "By earning deserved wages for quality work, almost all of our Mamas choose to invest in education." This is amazing, especially as 1 in 10 of the Global Mamas workforce has not gone to school beyond primary school and 85% of the women have not had education beyond high school. Education for girls means their likelihood of contracting HIV is reduced by a third, their earning power is increased by 25% and she is more likely to have a smaller and healthier family. The children of the Global Mamas, both the boys and the girls,  will be empowered to bring change and development to their country of Ghana. I wish them well. 

References:
https://data.unicef.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Child-Marriage-Brochure-HR_164.pdf
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36746174,
http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/desmond-tutu-child-marriage-harms-human-family/
http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2012/03/revenga.htm
https://camfed.org/

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