By Arthur Tokpah, ChildFund Guinea
“I should have graduated from high school like my friends,” Mariame says. But like many young Guinean women, she felt pressure to marry. Yielding to local tradition, Mariame wed an older man when she was only 13. He moved her to the capital city of Sierra Leone, where she didn’t know anyone.
“My parents obliged me to get married to a man who gave them the impression that he would allow me to continue school,” recalls Mariame, who is now 18. “After moving to his house, he said he did not marry me to go to school but to take care of the home and bear children for him.”
Mariame was able to leave her marriage and return to school, but many Guinean women don’t have the same opportunity.
According to UNICEF statistics from 2015, 21 percent of Guinean women ages 20 to 24 were married by the age of 15, and 52 percent were married by the time they were 18 years old, often to men more than a decade older in marriages arranged by their parents.
But Mariame and many other young people in Guinea are now speaking out to advocate for the rights of girls and young women — and against early marriage — with the support of ChildFund Guinea. Last month, our local partners in Kindia and Dabola held three public forums about early marriage, female genital mutilation and violence at school. More than 100 girls and boys ages 12 to 17 spoke openly about these issues, which are often kept quiet there, and recommended solutions to teachers, parents and government officials.
Public discussion is an important step in changing harmful traditions and attitudes that keep girls and women — and entire communities, by extension — trapped in poverty. We applaud the bravery and honesty of young people like Mariame who are shining a light on Guinea’s problems.
By Beth Meszaros, ChildFund Volunteer
Getting people to make donations to your charity of choice is never an easy task. You will send unanswered emails and hear polite noes in reply when you reach out to family, friends, colleagues. But don’t despair.
The best advice I can give you is to not only be a volunteer for ChildFund but, more importantly, become an advocate for ChildFund.
According to Merriam-Webster, an advocate is defined as “someone who publicly supports a cause or policy.” We should all be advocates or champions for children in need. I’ve made being an advocate for children and ChildFund part of who I am. I talk about my sponsored children and share my experiences every chance I get. I won’t say it’s easy, but through advocacy you can raise awareness about children in need and the incredible job ChildFund is doing to help them, and you can ultimately reach people who are willing to help. When I’m frustrated and feel like no one is listening, I just recall some of the words from my children’s letters. Things like “I love you” and “you’re part of our family.” These simple words remind me that they truly need and appreciate my help, and I go on to tell others about sponsorship.
Through advocacy, I have been able to find sponsors for several children in need, as well as one-time donations to ChildFund. I will keep on advocating for ChildFund and children all over the world because I have seen what ChildFund can do for children, and I have experienced what it feels like to help children and become a positive part of their lives.
Our CEO and president, Anne Lynam Goddard, spoke about violence against children at the TEDxRVA conference in March, and today the speech is available on video. Anne’s speech, “Freedom From Violence,” focuses on “re-action”: More than just a single reaction to events, but acting again and again to achieve our goals — specifically ending violence against children. She was part of a daylong lineup of speakers in Richmond, Va., all addressing ways that we can individually and as a community make positive changes in the world.
By Danielle Roth, ChildFund Youth Program Officer
The 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls is coming to a close. On ChildFund’s blog, we’ve shared stories about our work with women and girls in several of the countries where ChildFund works.
We’re reminded that women and girls, who make up more than half of the world’s population, are resilient in the face of tough challenges like forced marriages, lack of access to lifesaving health services and medicine, lack of political freedom and limited access to education, among many additional obstacles.
ChildFund is part of a larger effort to support women and girls in the United States and abroad. Networks like the Coalition for Adolescent Girls and Girls Not Brides work tirelessly to assure that women’s and girls’ concerns are elevated to the attention of decision-makers like President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. In addition, many organizations are engaging with the United Nations to ensure that women and girls are recognized in the Post-2015 development agenda.
We encourage ChildFund’s supporters to continue to add their voices to advocacy efforts for girls and women. For example, if you have a blog, share stories and important data on the well-being of women and girls around the world. On your Facebook and Twitter accounts, share relevant news stories with your friends and followers.
At ChildFund, we know that women and girls’ challenges are global issues and invite you to support us going forward. For now, we reflect on the 50 Days campaign with an apt quotation by poet Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”