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.”