Friday, August 24, 2018

Every small step we take will make a difference and get us closer to our goal of ending child marriage

We often hear people say “young people are the leaders of tomorrow” and “young people should be given the opportunity to lead.” But I know that youth are already leading. Over one third of Girls Not Brides members are youth-led organisations, which is fantastic. That means organisations where young people are in charge of day-to-day management, decision-making and other activities that ensure the effective running of a civil society organisation. That number confirms that young people are already leading change in their communities. Yet despite this, their work is often not given the legitimacy or credit that it deserves, or  they are not being heard.  

That’s why I am so excited about this activism training. Co-created with young activists, it will help amplify and strengthen the role that young people can, and do, play in ending child marriage across the world. In it there are dynamic and fun methods and strategies for training young people to champion change in their communities. As well as being community-level champions, the strong work that young people are doing should guarantee them a place and role in national-level processes. They need a seat at the table when important decisions are taken about what policies are necessary to end child marriage. Without them, decision-making will be ineffective and we will not see the change we need.
I know first hand what it is like to be faced with people wanting to make a decision about your future without consulting you. People who think being married as a child is the only route your life should or could take. 
I was living as a refugee in Tehran when my brother back home in Afghanistan decided to get married. My family needed to raise money so that he could buy his bride. They decided to sell me into marriage to raise that money. I was devastated. That was not the life I wanted for myself. I wanted to go to school. I wasn’t someone’s property to be bought and sold. I couldn’t imagine having to go back there to live a life of servitude. So I wrote a song in protest. I called it Daughters for Sale and with the help of a friend made a music video of it and posted it on YouTube. It went viral! People from all over the world got in touch and with the help of some of those wonderful people I came to live in America. Today, for the first time, I am in a real school, and looking forward to a future that I will choose. Even though my life has changed in many ways, one thing remains central: my role as an activist to end child marriage.
So, I ask you – as a young person, as an activist and as a global champion for Girls Not Brides – to use this manual and spread the hope and the power. Every small step we each take in this work will make a difference and get us closer to our goal of ending child marriage. Please work with and encourage young people of all races, genders and backgrounds to get involved, because it is only if we are all together that we will be able to end child marriage. I believe we can do it. Thank you.
Sonita Alizadeh Youth activist and Global Champion for  Girls Not Brides

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