Natalie Dormer: “I’m saying NO to child marriage”
Staying in school shouldn’t be a dream and child marriage shouldn’t be a reality. But for girls in Tanzania, it is. More than one in three are married before their 18th birthday.
During my recent trip to Tanzania with Plan International UK, I met youth advocates trying to change this.
14 is the age a girl can be married in Tanzania. For boys, it’s 18. They’re petitioning the Government to make it 18 for girls too – and rightly so.
During my visit, I saw first-hand the devastating impact child marriage has on girls’ lives. That’s why I’m standing with them and saying NO to child marriage.
On our drive to meet girls affected by child marriage, I talked at great length with Plan International staff about the situation in Tanzania. But I still wasn’t prepared for some of the stories I heard.
One of those was told to me by Khadija.
She had dreams of continuing her education and becoming a teacher. Instead, she was forced into marriage, moved miles away from her family and beaten by her husband.
Khadija comes from a really loving family, but they simply couldn’t afford her education.
Her parents felt they had no choice. So Khadija married a man who promised he would send her back to school. But he lied and betrayed his promise.
What I will always remember is how brave Khadija was. After being beaten by her husband, she told her father what was happening and he managed to send her enough money to come home.
Thankfully, she is now safely back with her family and, through Plan International, she has access to vocational training courses, as part of their Youth Economic Empowerment Project.
She will also have access to the local village savings loan scheme, so she can set up her own business or learn a trade, and either invest that money back into her family or continue with her education.
Meanwhile, Khadija’s parents now advise other community members against child marriage, educating them on the devastating impact it can have.
Reaching a new generation of young men and boys
One thing that’s important about Plan International’s campaign is that it’s not just about girls.
It’s about educating and informing young men and boys too. And I’ve been particularly impressed by the young male voice that’s growing in Tanzania.
This new generation of young men don’t want to marry a girl under 18. They understand the advantages of their wife being educated to the same level as they are. And they don’t want their child or their wife to die during childbirth.
If the legislation changes and a girl can’t legally get married until she’s 18, the impact on her life will be profound.
She’s less likely to fall pregnant young. She will be physically and mentally healthier. And the economy, be it on a community or an international level, will be stronger.
After visiting Tanzania, I’m standing with brave girls like Khadija, and joining them as they say NO to child marriage. You can read more about the campaign here >
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