I was 11 years old strolling through the aisles of Barnes and Noble. I was confusedby an autobiography titled, “I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced.” My pre-teen self was wondering how anyone younger than me could ever be divorced, let alone married. Curiosity took over, and I read the book.Nujood was from rural Yemen and sold into child marriage. She was eventually granted a divorce. My curiosity intensified. I wanted to learn more about child marriage. I read articles online of other child marriage victims and watched National Geographic documentaries such as “Too Young to Wed.” I found the practice occurs in many countries. India, my country of heritage, has alarming rates of child marriage and has the largest number of underage marriages in the world.
Child marriage perpetuates the poverty cycle into future generations. Girls are more likely to drop out of school after marriage and be illiterate. These factors reduce financial earning potential and limit options for girls when if they enter the labor force. The longer girls stay in school, the more qualified they will appear during a job search. For each year a girl stays in school, her income increases. Maternal mortality rates are high for teen girls giving birth before their bodies are not fully matured. These health issues increase the likelihood her children will also develop health issues which can hinder their school, and the poverty cycle continues. Additionally, girls face severe physical and mental health effects due to child marriage. Girls are more likely to develop HIV and other sexually transmitted infections that can have critical repercussions to their growth. They are more likely to develop depression. In their husband’s home, the girls usually do not have much contact with girls their own age or have leisure time to explore their interests. These factors inhibit girls from experiencing their childhoods which can lead to depression and other mental health issues. If girls are encouraged to stay in school longer, they are more likely to utilize resources that allow them to grow into educated adults and eventually enter the workforce with more options and higher qualifications. Access to quality education and the support to purse it can help improve future generations’ standard of living.
Nujood’s book made me realize that it is often pure luck that determines where you are born and the opportunities that are available to you in those circumstances. I could have been Nujood. As an Indian American woman in the United States, I grew up aware about the privilege I have here and the privilege my family remaining in India possess. I have access to a quality education and parents who encourage me to pursue my dreams. Nujood’s autobiography stimulated and shaped my desire to continue learning about global issues affecting women. I will continuously strive to be self-aware about where I stand when entering conversations about topics such as child marriage in developing countries.
Sarika*, a graduate of our partner program Wings School for Girls, had bright ambitions to be an engineer with support of a Plus2 Scholarship from The Kiran Anjali Project. She enrolled at a local junior college and did very well. Sarika knew her family was not in full support of her continuing her education. Her father was the only wage earner in a two-room house with four children. Both parents dropped out of school at 7thgrade. She hoped they would change their minds if she did well. Unfortunately, her parents forced her to get married shortly after turning 18 and she had to leave her education behind. Fast forward to today: Sarika recently returned home and told her parents she wanted to divorce her husband and continue her education. We do not know the circumstances that led to her decision to leave her husband. One can only imagine how hard it was, since divorce is culturally taboo. Can you imagine the courage and resiliency this brave young woman possesses? Thanks to your generous support, Sarika has been given a Plus2 Scholarship to go back to school and pursue her dreams.
The Kiran Anjali Project’s partner programs are helping combat child marriage and break the poverty cycle. With your support, The Kiran Anjali Project will continue providing support for girls like Sarika so they can avoid child marriage, stay in school, and have the chance to dream.
*Sarika’s name has been changed for safety reasons.
GirlsNotBrides Statistics https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/where-does-it-happen/
New York Times article “Uphill Battle Against Child Marriage Is Being Won in India, for Now”
Council on Foreign Relations: Ending Child Marriage: How Elevating the Status of Girls Advances U.S. Foreign Policy Objectives file:///C:/Users/anjal/Downloads/Ending_Child_Marriage_report.pdf
U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2672998/
This blog is part of a series produced by our interning college students Anjali Patel and Monica Sager.