Category Archives: girls not brides

what life is showing you

There’s this sappy song that’s been playing in my head all week that goes like this, “Do you know where you’re going to… do you like the things that life is showing you?”  Most of the time I feel fortunate to have an idea where I’m going to and I feel pretty privileged when I see what life is showing me.  “Do you get what you’re hoping for, when you look behind you there’s no open doors… what are you hoping for, do you know?”  I hope for a world where all girls have a right to an education, choice, safety, health, and opportunity.   I envision a world where women come together as peacemakers and create cohesive communities where all people are valued, counted, and heard.  I hope that fear and ignorance will be replaced by tolerance and acceptance.

Sometimes, though, when I look out into the world, I don’t like what it’s showing me after all.  When I read about the ongoing atrocities around the world, especially against women and children, it’s hard for me to hold onto where I thought I was going to… this work with girls, raising awareness and global sensitivity feels like a mere drop in the bucket at times.  Girls are still being forced into child marriages, poisoned, mutilated, or raped when they try to go to school or stand up for themselves.  Women are still not being valued in many parts of the world.  It’s easy to wonder:  am I making a difference?   When I do not get what I’m hoping for, I look to the kids around me for strength.  I am never disappointed.

A girl refocused me today.  Her name is Hadia.  She’s a 14 year old from Afghanistan.  A year ago she knew where she was going:  to New York to study, learn and become.  The arrangements were made; her bags were packed.  Her visa was denied.  Her dreams were shaken.  And when she looked around her all she saw were closed doors.  Unwilling to stop hoping and stop pursuing her future, Hadia determined to study harder, learn deeper, and become more.  We chatted online today and I found myself completely uplifted and inspired by this young woman and her true grit.

Grit is defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”  Hadia has this in spades!  Despite living every day with the uncertainty of the future of her country, she carries on.  She walks to school wondering whether or not today might be the last day she will freely do so.  She worries about girls in her country who are being poisoned at their schools by those who believe that girls have no right to an education.  She thinks about the possible return of the Taliban and what that means for girls and women in Afghanistan.  Life is showing her that each day is a golden opportunity that must be seized.  Life is showing her that she must remain strong, focused, and passionate about her goals.

Hadia showed me where I am going.  I am going back to work.  I hear her voice, value her goals, and support her commitment.  She is studying today,  learning about the world, and becoming a global girl.   Thinkpeace Workshop advocates for girls around the world so that all girls have the right to be counted, safe, educated, valued, and healthy.  I’m watching my daughter study for exams, thinking about Hadia, and realizing once again that we are all connected, all in this together, and oh so capable of being the change we wish to see.  Do I know where I’m going to, do I like the things that life is showing me, do I get what I’m hoping for…?  Only if I stay as full of grit as my dear Hadia.

What is life showing you?

I do? Not.

Try to imagine for a moment…you are a 14 year old girl who hasn’t tasted life yet!  You’ve just begun to blossom.  You want an opportunity for an education.  You want to play.  You want to have a voice that is heard.  You want to be healthy and feel safe.  You want to be counted, literally.  But you aren’t.  You don’t have a birth certificate.  There is no record that you exist.  You rely solely on your family to make decisions that will impact the rest of your life.  You have no choice.

Your husband was chosen by the time you were 5.  You are lucky that you were able to stay with your family until you are 14.  But now, it’s your wedding day.  Your groom is 37.  You’ve never had a conversation.  He doesn’t know that you’re good at math or interested in medicine.  He doesn’t know that you like to read or paint or play an instrument.  He doesn’t know that you are already tired from all the work you do for your family every day.  He doesn’t realize that you are still a child.  This is normal.  This is life… in the developing world one in seven girls is married before the age of 15.

According to Girls Not Brides, “Child marriage is a global problem that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. Child brides can be found in every region in the world, from the Middle East to Latin America, South Asia to Europe.  Region by region, half of all the world’s child brides live in South Asia where 46% of girls are married before they reach 18. Child marriage rates are 66% in Bangladesh, 39% in Afghanistan and 47% in India – where the sheer size of the population, at over 1 billion, means that many millions of girls are affected. Every other region is affected too, from Sub-Saharan Africa, where the child marriage rate is 38% overall, to Latin America and the Caribbean, where the rate stands at 29% (UNICEF, 2011).”

Working to end child marriages means addressing major issues such as poverty, traditional values, gender roles, and security.  The solutions lie in empowering girls, educating communities and families, improving girls’ access to education, providing economic incentives and changing laws.  Child marriage violates girls’ fundamental human rights.  The time has come.  We must work together to put an end to this practice and protect girls around the world.  “We can end child marriage NOW.  Let girls be girls, not brides,” Desmond Tutu.

At a recent thinkpeace meeting girls learned about this practice and were deeply affected.  We have reached out to various organizations such as Girls Not Brides, Girl Up and to learn more and to become a part of the solution.  Thinkpeace girls played at getting married:  they fashioned wedding dresses out of crepe paper, had wedding cake, laughing with each other all the while.  But then they were shown photos of their “grooms” and were told they’d have a baby within a year.  The fun ended when reality hit.  There are tough issues to discuss surrounding child marriage but we know that together, we can make a difference.  Talking about it is just the beginning.

Imagine…you’re a 14 year old girl with a future.

The wedding photo