The world needs to act on child marriages says Malala

MANIKGANJ, BANGLADESH - AUGUST 20: 15 year old Nasoin Akhter sits with relatives while posing for photos on the day of her wedding to a 32 year old man, August 20, 2015 in Manikganj, Bangladesh.  In June of this year, Human Rights Watch released a damning report about child marriage in Bangladesh. The country has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with 29% of girls marrying before the age of 15, and 65% of girls marrying before they turn 18. The detrimental effects of early marriage on a girl cannot be overstated. Most young brides drop out of school. Pregnant girls from 15-20 are twice as likely to die in childbirth than those 20 or older, while girls under 15 are at five times the risk. Research cites spousal age difference as a significant risk factor for violence and sexual abuse. Child marriage is attributed to both cultural tradition and poverty. Parents believe that it "protects" girls from sexual assault and harassment. Larger  dowries are not required for young girls, and economically, women's earnings are insignificant as compared to men's. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
A 15-year-old Bangladeshi girl prepares to marry a 32-year-old man in this image captured by Getty News Images. The country has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with 29 per cent of girls marrying before the age of 15, and 65 per cent before they turn 18.

The world must stamp out child marriages and provide young girls with an education so they can live a better life.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai told a conference in Sharjah yesterday, that too many people in her homeland of Pakistan, and other countries, allow the archaic practice to continue.

The 19-year-old Pakistani campaigner, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for speaking out about children’s education, said learning

 is key to empowering young women to shape their future.

And she told the conference how the issue of child brides is close to her heart because of what happened to a friend.

Malala said: “I remember that my very close friend was forced to get married when she only 11.

“I remember many young women relying on their brothers and fathers for a living if they got divorced or if their husbands passed away – which is why I know that quality education for girls isn’t just reading books or passing exams.

“It’s empowerment, freedom and nourishment – it’s independence and the ability to stand on their two feet.”

She added:“I cannot imagine myself for a second without an education. We need to inspire women to be beyond limits, to do that we need women empowerment.”

Malala added:“I cannot imagine myself for a second without an education. We need to inspire women to be beyond limits and in order to do that we need women empowerment.”

The United Nations Population Fund states that an estimated 17.4 million girls under 18 are married each year – that’s 47,000 girls per day.

The practice is most prevalent in sub-Saharan African countries, with 75 per cent of girls married before 18 in Niger. More than 66 per cent of girls are married before 18 in Bangladesh and in India the figure is 47 per cent, according to the International Research Centre on Women.

Malala’s father, Zaiuddin Yousafzai, spoke to 7DAYS about his daughter’s friend, who was forced into marriage at a young age back in their hometown in Swat Valley.

He said the girl “suddenly disappeared”. They later found out that she was forced to be with an older man.

Yousafzai said: “She was a close friend of Malala’s. Malala went looking for her and she called her several times, but we couldn’t find her.

“Then, one day, we find out that she was forced into marrying an older man. This stopped her education and she was forced to do many things she wasn’t meant to do at that age. Child marriage is a problem in parts of Pakistan, other parts of Asia and Africa. There needs to be an immediate end to child marriage.”


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