21 December 2010

Child marriage or something more sinister? How can we say 'No' to the terrible issues happening around us?

One of my recent roles at FORWARD has been to help promote a film screening of Moolaade, a film set in Burkina Faso where four girls fled to escape FGM. Ousmane Sembene’s powerful film challenges gender inequality, domestic violence, forced marriage and FGM. So how do we not become sensitised to these terrible ordeals?

For many years I have wondered if child marriage (marriage under age 18) is appropriate? It interferes with girls’ education; often leads to early child bearing – with fistula complications; often leads to domestic violence and divorce as young husbands/wives are not psychologically prepared for marriage; and can mean a 3rd or 4th wife can be bullied by older wives. So how can one feel when reading of a 5 year old boy and a three year old girl becoming betrothed – with full ceremony and rings to become married in 2020! Or an eight year old girl married to a 40 year old man. Is this ‘child marriage’ in one society different from ‘paedophilia’ in another?

I recently met with fellow campaign organisation Stop the Traffik. Although 2007 marked the 200th anniversary of abolishing the transatlantic slave trade, the US estimate 800,000 annually are trafficked across borders – 2 children per minute being used for sex. Trafficking generates $10-12 billion a year which is why it’s hard to stop. Women are particularly vulnerable, having an unequal deal anyway, being 70% of the world’s ‘poor’ owning only 2% of titled land, 66% of the illiterate and with half a million dying in pregnancy/childbirth.

As we approach Christmas, the season of good will, spare a thought for those neighbours in your community who are in prison or homeless, in poor health or bereaved. Christmas can be a lonely season, where suicides are at their highest. Poor mental health and addictions can become acute – with people ‘indulging’ in food, alcohol or spending addictions to smooth the ‘pain’.

If you know of someone who is in financial problems, look at CAP Money where advice on budgeting can get you back on track for January! I am helping run a course in early 2011 – so watch this pace for future tips! Happy Christmas and Holidays to all and the best for 2011!