It’s tempting to think of child marriage as a bizarre ceremony arranged by distant family members and forced on girls in the middle of the night.
Although this sometimes does happen, child marriage and union are far more common than that. One in four girls is married by the age of 18 in 50 countries around the world. The true nature of child marriage is subtle, making it all the more insidious. Preventing child marriage, therefore, must happen at a personal level.
El Salvador is one of these countries where child marriage/union is commonplace – while it is typically not an arranged marriage, the abuse that a girl endures is no less damaging.
Carina’s* mother died a few years ago, and she is being raised by her grandfather and her grandfather’s wife Rosa* in their community in La Libertad. Like most mothers in the world (biological or not), Rosa wants nothing less than the best for her daughter.
But in La Libertad, it is easy for a girl to slip between the cracks.
Carina says, “I used to think it was normal for a 13-year-old girl to live with a man who is 25 or 30 – it happens all the time. He’d threaten her and bully her, and say, ‘If you don’t do it, I’ll do something bad to you or your family,’ so girls think they have to go live with him. We’re taught to put up with it."
Through the Because I am a Girl project, Carina learned that this abuse is not normal and can be prevented. What's more, she learned how to communicate with her peers and help girls who were falling into the trap of forced union.
“I’m learning that boys and girls both have value; we are equals. We should all work together to make a better life. And now I can help my friends who experience violence. I have one friend who came to me; she’s 15 years old and has a baby and lives with her boyfriend who is a lot older than she is. He was beating her, and she didn’t know what to do. She came to me, and I helped her to understand how to talk to him. I explained that they have to think about their baby boy. As he grows up he needs good role models; he can’t see his father beating his mother, because he’ll do that too. So she talked to her boyfriend, and he doesn’t hit her anymore.”
“Our house is like a clinic!” Rosa says. “We always have girls now coming to ask for advice, and we help them get out of bad relationships.”
“It’s true,” Carina agrees. “I wish I could tell all of the girls in my community, ‘We’re not less! Sometimes men look down on women, but we have to stand up and be confident. We’re worth it!’”
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.
We are so excited about two new partners!
Girl Rising Coming Soon to Theaters
“I will read. I will study. I will learn…. If you stop me, there will be other girls who rise up and take my place.
“I am change.”
When we heard these words on the film Girl Rising, produced by the global social action campaign 10x10, it was clear that Because I Am A Girl and 10x10 were meant to be partners.
Since 2010, Plan has been collaborating with 10x10, together reaching wider audiences to promote our shared vision of girls’ education. Their film Girl Rising tells the individual stories of girls around the world who confront overwhelming odds every day. Narrated by renowned actresses including Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Selena Gomez, the film is a powerful spotlight on the world-changing potential that each girl possesses.
At the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, attended by Because I Am A Girl Global Ambassador Freida Pinto, the official trailer for Girl Rising was released. This beautiful documentary, years in the making, hits theaters in March around the country.
One of the girls featured in Girl Rising is Yasmin, whose real identity is protected due to safety concerns. Yasmin has been involved with Plan’s non-formal education programs in Egypt. While her story is yet to be fully written, she can teach us all a thing or two about courage and inner strength. Although she may be limited by gender roles in her country, her imagination and dreams know no bounds.
In the words of Freida Pinto, Yasmin—and countless other girls like her—“do not see themselves as victims, but they definitely want and need our help to achieve their full potential.”
Together with 10x10, Because I Am A Girl is raising awareness about the challenging cultural and economic situations that keep girls out of school, and working to break down these barriers to give girls like Yasmin the opportunity for an education.
Welcome to Kate Nash, Our Newest Global Ambassador!
We’re delighted to welcome singer/songwriter Kate Nash as our newest Because I Am A Girl Global Ambassador. Kate’s powerful and passionate voice will be an incredible channel to spread the word about the transformative power of investing in girls.
“I'm so happy to be a part of this campaign; it feels like the perfect charity for me to join forces with. I love empowering women and girls, and being able to do this in developing countries in parts of the world I have never been to is so exciting,” says Kate. “I can't wait to help give girls the opportunities they deserve and see them realize their full potential."
In March, Because I Am A Girl will join Kate Nash on her 11-date North American tour coinciding with the release of her new album “GIRL TALK.” The tour will begin in Boston, making stops across the Midwest and Canada, then returning for a grand finale in New York City.
Thanks to Kate, everywhere you turn, people will be talking about girls.
Actress Marcia Cross kick starts global Because I am a Girl campaign
NEW YORK: Actress Marcia Cross lit the Empire State Building in pink and white from sunset on Wednesday, October 10th to dawn on October 11th to honor the first international Day of the Girl.
Cross took part in the special ceremony to support Plan International’s Because I am a Girl campaign. She aimed to help raise awareness of girls’ rights and empower girls across the world to transform communities. She was joined at the Empire State Building by Plan International youth delegates Gifty, Marcela, and Nurul.
Across the world, other monuments were lit up, including the London Eye, Niagara Falls, Toronto’s CN Tower, Delhi’s Old Fort, and The Mermaid in Denmark.
Cross said: “I’ve been a proud supporter of Plan’s work for many years and my family has had the privilege of sponsoring a child from Zimbabwe through the organization’s sponsorship program.
“Now, I’m thrilled to support Plan’s Because I am a Girl initiative. I recently took an amazing trip to India to see firsthand how Plan is helping to strengthen communities thru programs that focus on empowering girls. My visit to Delhi was magical. All of the girls and women were so welcoming and expressive. We played games, sang songs and danced. We shared conversations about our challenges and our dreams.
“But I also heard about girls who weren’t permitted to go to school. Others were malnourished. Even others were forced into child labor and sex work to provide money for their families. Why? Simply because they are girls. Girls are most likely to be malnourished, forced into early marriage, subject to violence, trafficked, or sold. But together we can stop the injustices. Extensive research shows that these trends can be reversed when girls are given the tools and resources to succeed.”
Day of the Girl
Girls throughout the world face higher rates of violence, poverty, and discrimination. They are more likely to be malnourished, forced into early marriage, trafficked, or sold.
On December 19, 2011, the United Nations adopted October 11th as the international Day of the Girl following an extensive campaign by Plan.
The international Day of the Girl promotes equal treatment and opportunities for girls around the world. Improving girls' lives has a ripple effect – when a girl is educated, nourished, and protected, she shares her knowledge and skills with her family and community, and can forever change the future of her country.
Cross continued: “As a mother of 2 young girls, I strongly believe everyone has the right to a good education and that means girls too. Empower a girl, keep her safe from harm and watch her grow. Then watch her help transform her family and her community. I will always remember my special trip to India with Plan. Now I need you to join the 4 million girl promise and help change the world.”
Cross added: “I’m proud to support Plan’s Because I am a Girl initiative. Now I need you to join the 4 million girl promise with me. Invest in a girl and she will change the world.”
Actress Freida Pinto recently traveled with Plan to Sierra Leone, where she witnessed the 'Because I am a Girl' initiative first-hand. Upon her return, she shared her experience in a video and a personal blog. "In Sierra Leone, the treacherous web of problems women face is endless — teenage pregnancies, forced or self-imposed prostitution to make ends meet, death during pregnancy, denial of education and the shocking female genital mutilation that is unfortunately embedded in tradition.There is no overnight solution to these problems, but here’s what I think — educate and empower a girl and she will help build a stronger community. Ask them what their dreams are and they will, in their extremely polished, polite and upper-crust English, tell you that they want to be accountants, doctors, journalists, politicians — but only after they say that they dream of a place that is rid of gender inequality. Hence, they treat education like a luxury and I was amazed by their command over the English language and oratory skills.Then what about boys? The boys are very important, for their support and encouragement makes the girls feel safer and less intimidated. Most of the girl empowerment groups formed by Plan have at least 15 to 25% boys, who make a stand against gender discrimination, encourage parents to send their daughters to school and try their best to be the voice for the voiceless.I was asked by a journalist in Sierra Leone, what hope can I give these girls to which I said: “To be very honest, these girls have given me hope.”Plan International USA is proud to welcome Freida on board as part of our global effort to change the lives of girls and strengthen communities.
Hello! I just wanted to take a minute to introduce myself and tell you a little bit about my role at Plan International USA. I believe it’s quite rare that we find a role that is perfectly aligned with what we believe to be our purpose in life. I understand my purpose to be grounded in making a meaningful contribution to the lives of girls in the developing world and in providing them the support they need in reaching their potentials. And each day, my role at Plan allows me to directly deliver on that purpose. I manage the Because I am a Girl Initiative, which includes our programming and marketing pillars. Within the programming pillar, I am working with the our Because I am a Girl team at Plan International USA and with our Country Offices to build a portfolio of 8 girl-centered projects that work to find, reach and impact the most marginalized girls by working through a community-based approach to build the assets that girls need to reduce their vulnerabilities and to expand their opportunities. I spend a week in each country facilitating a Girl Focus workshop to build girl champions and to ensure that our country offices have the tools that they need to set our projects up for success. I am also responsible for delivering the domestic marketing campaign that is holistic across multiple touchpoints to raise awareness of the plight and power of girls in the developing world and to build support for the projects in our girl portfolio. We have an incredible team working on these marketing efforts, and this blog is an enormous part of those efforts. Thank you so much for joining us, and I hope that you find the hope and inspiration in this blog that I find every day.
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