Tying the knot: an expression that for most of us evokes happy memories of one of the best days of our lives. However, the fun of planning the wedding and the heady excitement of the first weeks of marriage will not be the experience of 13.5 million girls this year. Instead, fearing threats, and encouraged or coerced into marriage as a means of protection, nearly one-in-three girls in developing countries will marry before the age of 18.
The rights of women and girls, including freedom from child marriage and domestic violence, have generated emotionally charged debates in Afghanistan over the past decade. Such debates often focus on personal opinions and experiences, or on the varied interpretations of religious teachings on marriage. This brochure provides basic facts about the impact of child marriage and domestic violence on the lives of Afghan girls and women, and on the broader economic development of the country. At the end, we provide recommendations for needed reform.
Wanjala Wafula is the founder and CEO of the Coexist Initiative, a Kenyan community-based organisation that works alongside boys and men to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence. Coexist was awarded the African Achievers Awards 2012, celebrating the successes of engaging men and boys as a means to empower young girls.
Each day before the reaping, the 11-year-old girl walked between the stunted stalks of millet with a sense of mounting dread. In a normal year, the green shoots vaulted out of the ground and rose as high as 13 feet (4 meters), a wall tall enough to conceal an adult man. This time, they only reached her waist. Even the tallest plant in her family's plot barely grazed her shoulder. Zali could feel the tug of the invisible thread tying her fate to that of the land. As the world closed in around her, she knew that this time the bad harvest would mean more than just hunger.