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Sep 4, 2018

Introducing Some of Our Girls

Aisha I., with her tailoring equipment & material
Aisha I., with her tailoring equipment & material

Greetings to all of our wonderful supporters!

As you know, our Tehani Photography Workshops are a weeklong retreat designed to give young girls who have survived, or are at risk of being entered into, child marriage the opportunity to learn a skill while also gaining methods of managing the trauma they’ve experienced – our goal is for each young woman to leave feeling empowered and ready to move on to the next stage of her life.  But did you know that even after we finish our time together with these amazing young women, our support does not end? Upon “graduation” from our workshops, each participant receives a scholarship to continue her education, either in a traditional classroom setting or through support for vocational training.

As we mentioned in our last report, we hope to bring our next workshop to Nigeria, so that some of the girls who participated in our 2017 piece, "Child, Bride, Mother: Nigeria," can experience the healing powers that these workshops can provide.  But in the meantime, we are already working to provide them with assistance. After our time getting to know the incredible young women who survived abduction by and forced marriage to Boko Haram militants, we began a scholarship program to enable these particular girls to take a further step towards healing and empowering them to establish new lives for themselves.  They are making phenomenal progress and today we’d like to share some of their stories with you.

One of our most inspiring grantees is Aisha A., now 16, who was 14 when we met her in November 2016. She was abducted by Boko Haram while she was in her last semester of secondary school.  Aisha escaped to Maiduguri, where many returning victims of Boko Haram migrated due to the displaced persons camp located within the town. TYTW provided Aisha with emergency assistance including  food and clothing, and enrolled her in secondary school so she could complete her education. Upon her graduation, she requested to be enrolled the Borno College of Legal and Islamic Studies, where she will prepare for university and a career as a Sharia court judge.  She has high aspirations for herself and we are overjoyed to be a part of her journey.

Another amazing young woman is Aisha I., age 19, who escaped abduction and two years in captivity by Boko Haram during a raid on the camp where she was being held.  In the midst of her escape, Aisha bravely rescued two young boys, Hudu, now 10, and Abbani, now 13, who were also held by the insurgents to be trained as child soldiers, and has been raising them as her own sons since her return.  This summer, Aisha was one of the first graduates from TYTW’s vocational training pilot program, receiving intensive training to become a tailor, as well as equipment and material to start her own tailoring business. TYTW also supports the education of Aisha’s two adopted sons, recently purchasing new bicycles for each of them to allow them to travel to and from their school more easily.

In addition to supporting many of the girls’ education, we are happy to be able to assist several more in other ways.  Dada, now age 15, was a student in a French secondary school on the Nigeria/Cameroon border when she was abducted by Boko Haram.  She daringly escaped and eventually made her way Maiduguri. As a native French speaker, she was unable to attend a Nigerian school and asked instead for help in setting up her own food business.  TYTW provided her with emergency assistance and start-up funding to become a food vendor. She first began selling food in front of her home, but eventually moved to the busier Monday Market, where she now employs three other survivors in her growing business.  Dada is now able to support her mother, child, and two of her siblings.

These are just a few examples of the incredible young women who inspire us every day here at TYTW and will hopefully move you as well.  They are the reason that we do what we do, and why we work so hard to impact as many lives as we can. With your help, we will continue to offer additional opportunities to these and other girls like them.  We are excited about the prospect of holding a workshop with Aisha A. and Aisha I., Dada, and others in Nigeria, and with your help, this dream will become a reality!

Aisha A.
Aisha A.
Hudu, age 10, with his new bicycle
Hudu, age 10, with his new bicycle
Abbani, age 14, with his new bicycle
Abbani, age 14, with his new bicycle
Dada, operating her food business in Maiduguri
Dada, operating her food business in Maiduguri
Jun 1, 2018

Survivors Speak Out

Hello Too Young to Wed supporters!

We are so grateful every day for the support of each and every one of you, especially these last few weeks as we have heard from so many following the incredible success of the visit of two of our Nigerian scholarship recipients, former Boko Haram brides Ya Kaka and Hauwa. As we shared in our last report, these brave young women, featured in our 2017 multimedia piece "Child, Bride, Mother: Nigeria," traveled to the United States in March for a series of events in Washington, D.C., and New York City, and were the guests of honor at TYTW’s Inaugural Gala on International Women’s Day.

During their time in Washington, Hauwa and Ya Kaka were welcomed by over three dozen members of Congress at bipartisan events held in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME), and Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL) hosted the girls in their respective Houses and offered them an opportunity to speak directly to our lawmakers, sharing their stories of abduction, escape, loss, and survival, and personalizing the terror that Boko Haram introduced into their lives. During meetings at the Department of State, Ya Kaka and Hauwa were able to provide vital information to staff members working to provide relief to the areas impacted the most – letting these individuals know what services and programs would be the most beneficial to others like themselves.

Hauwa and Ya Kaka’s trip continued in New York City, where they participated in several panel discussions at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and met with representatives of the United Nations Population Fund and UNICEF. Sharing their stories at these events and in the media, including an interview with PBS Newshour, brings their message to a larger and more global audience, garnering additional support for the efforts needed to help survivors create better lives for themselves. We hope to partner with these organizations to develop programs which will identify the needs of survivors like Ya Kaka and Hauwa and ensure that help is on the way.

We are excited to share that these meetings resulted in the recent introduction of a bipartisan Senate resolution condemning the actions of Boko Haram and urging the United States government to work quickly and effectively to enact measures to defeat Boko Haram and to provide much-needed survivor support to the girls who have suffered so much at their hands. A similar resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives.

TYTW’s mission is to protect girls’ rights and end child marriage. One of the best ways we can accomplish both is by empowering girls to become advocates for themselves and for others like them. Hauwa and Ya Kaka’s visit to the United States was the next step in their journey and, with your help, we can take them even further. We are planning our next Tehani Photo Workshop to take place in Northern Nigeria, where Ya Kaka and Hauwa will act as mentors for other Boko Haram survivors as they experience the healing power of art as therapy, learn coping techniques to manage their trauma, and are empowered to become role models within their communities and in the fight against child marriage.

How can you help? To support Hauwa, Ya Kaka, and the thousands of girls still missing in Nigeria, please contact your representatives to ask that they add their names to the proposed resolutions - let them know they have your support as we seek to get these resolutions passed. And keep TYTW in mind as you plan your charitable giving this spring. With every donation, we move closer to being able to provide our next workshop to deserving girls around the world, and with your help, we are confident that we will soon be reporting from Tehani Photo Workshop #3!

Mar 2, 2018

Empowering survivors on International Women's Day

Hauwa and Ya Kaka, two courageous young women who had been abducted by Boko Haram and forced into early marriage and motherhood, arrived in the United States this week and are beginning their journey towards effecting international change through grassroots advocacy.  Their spirit and determination inspire us, and we are thrilled to be honoring them at our inaugural Too Young to Wed gala event, to be held on March 8th, International Women’s Day, in New York City.

We are pleased to share the invitation to our gala with you, our supporters.  This event will be a celebration of girl empowerment, embodied by these brave young women who have traveled across the world to raise their voices and speak out not only against the tragedy of child marriage, but in support of those who continue to be torn from their families, the thousands of girls still missing, and those who have been lucky enough to return home.  We hope to host our next Tehani Photography Workshop with these girls in Northern Nigeria.

We hope you can join us on International Women's Day as we honor Hauwa and Ya Kaka and take another step forward in our fight to end child marriage.  For those who cannot attend, we encourage you to participate in our silent auction.  

As always, we thank you for your support!

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