I’m lucky, because my love looks like this.
All the time.
You might read this and think, ‘no ones love is that good.’
I used to think the same thing.
Until I met my husband that is.
Sure, we have our moments where I jokingly threaten his life for the insurance money, but overall, it really is this good.
It’s hard worked for. Playful. Sincere. Effervescent. Healthy.
And it doesn’t just look this way; it feels this way too.
I’ve said many times that I don’t think one lifetime will be enough time to love this man with as much breadth as I feel depth.
But this sweet reader, makes me the luckiest human alive.
Did you know that love like this impacts the economy? The environment? Health care and mortality rates? Education? National and international policy?
In honor of love month, this post is dedicated to outlining practical ways each of us can participate in promoting this kind of love on a global scale, making it possible specifically for our youngest of world dwellers.
Each day, 47,700 children are married before the age of 18. This means a child is married every 3 seconds. This totals nearly 15 million children each year, most of whom are girls. In some countries marriages are arranged at birth or in their toddler years, with the child leaving to live with whom they were married to as early as seven or eight years old.
Child marriage impacts the individuals, families, communities, and countries involved in the practice.
Addressing child marriage would have a profound impact on education, health care, the economy, and the environment. The practice of child marriage is not merely an issue that affects individuals.
Child marriage is deeply rooted in poverty and the role of girls in society. Sadly, in many developing countries, boys are seen as potential providers, whereas girls are seen as financial burdens. Girls who are intended for marriage are often viewed as “belonging” to their husband, so the husband will incur the responsibility of providing food, clothing, and shelter for their bride. By marrying a young girl off, an impoverished family is likely to collect a small dowry, or payment for the bride, which helps the family to increase their financial resources while decreasing the amount of mouths they must provide for. Husbands tend to seek out girls who have not yet reached child bearing age as they often have a cheaper bride price, and more child bearing years. In cultures with high sexual assault rates, families may also marry off their daughter young so that she is married before she is no longer considered desirable in the event she is raped.
Child brides are particularly susceptible to domestic violence, sexual, physical, and emotional.
Child brides are at a significantly higher risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. These diseases in many countries have a profound effect on their social position within their community, and represent a major stressor on the often limited medical system available to them.
At the time of the marriage, girls are often forced to leave school.
With limited education, girls are less likely to have economic opportunity, increasing their chances of living in poverty.
As child marriages rise, so do still births and infant mortality rates. Girls who become pregnant before their bodies are ready often face devastating complications in pregnancy, ranging from incontinence to death. As many countries do not have the means to address incontinence issues, child mothers are often rejected by their family due to their foul odor or infection, leaving them to fend for themselves and their child.
Child brides tend to have more health complications, and larger families than women who marry as adults. This puts extra strain on not only limit social systems, but the environment as well.
The growing global divide between the rich and the poor increases a child’s chances of becoming a child bride, which serves to encourage a cycle of poverty, poor education, disease, and violence. This adds stress to already struggling communities.
This does not merely affect developing countries. Between the year 2000 and 2010, in New York alone, 4,000 children below the age of 18 were allowed to marry. Some of the children were as young as 14. While several international conventions advise against this practice, the United States has been hesitant to adopt such laws as they are viewed as limiting the rights of the parents.
Studies show that by decreasing or ending child marriage, education and reading rates would increase, overall health would improve, child and mother morality rates would decrease, poverty would lower and population growth would slow. Slowing the population growth could have a profound impact on our already struggling environment. According to Becker, studies show that by ending child marriage we could reduce the population growth by 120 million people by 2030, even more based on exponents in the generations to follow.
Sounds totally doom and gloom right?
I get it.
A lot of the issues in this world intersect, making them both complex and complicated.
Looking at it all, everything can feel impossible. So why even try?
I believe that what we do, and how we do it, is our love letter to our God and our world. What you do, how you engage your world, is part of your love story.
Love stories are not just bodies and souls. Love stories are also empowered recognition of one another as human beings.
The hard truth is that a lot of the things we do make no difference at all, but it is extremely important that we do them.
I believe the reason this issue, and issues like it continue to go unaddressed is not because we don’t care, but because we don’t know how to care in such a way that change is made.
That’s where this blog comes in.
I am determined to help you overcome that feeling of immobility and inadequacy in global issues that seem impossible. The feeling where you want to help but do nothing because you don’t know what to do, how to do it, or start believing the lie you have no time or power.
Here are a few ways you can help child brides this February.
Donate to http://girlsnotbrides.org: This truly badass global partner organization is dedicated to ending child marriage. They have a bunch of different global campaigns you can help to fund, that truly make a difference by helping to provide education and resources in communities across the globe. You can read more about child marriage, the approach behind reducing rates of child brides, and their mission at the linked site. A dollar goes farther in developing countries, so if you can only donate the price of your daily java, that can do a lot to help.
Support Local Campaigns that End Child Marriage in the United States: This is a big one readers. There is no minimum age requirement in the United States for marriage, because it is seen as an infringement on parents rights. Judges can grant marriages to any age child. To find out about legislation in your state, visit http://hrw.org.
Spread the Word: While I hope you share this article, there are excellent resources to share local, national, and global facts about the devastating impacts of child marriage on our world. A great place to start is Girls Not Brides, linked above. Additionally, you can check out my recommended reads page for reliable books about improving the welfare of your world. I work hard to write pieces with reliable sources that you are confident in sharing, but however you do it, spread the word.
Register Your Upcoming Wedding Through Vow: VOW to End Child Marriage is an organization that partners with wedding brands that donate to help children say, “I don’t” while consenting brides plan to say, “I do.” It is a way in which happy couples can register their wedding or purchase items for their big day from companies who have committed portions of their proceeds to helping end child marriage.
Help Fund Education: If Girls Not Brides doesn’t speak to you, that is okay. Addressing issues of education and poverty, abuse and health has the profound ability to impact child marriage. When one improves, so does the other. To find out more about different campaigns, go to http://Globalgiving.org.
Check Out the Donate Page on My Blog: That’s right. If you haven’t checked out my ‘Give‘ page, it’s time. You can donate to one of the many organizations I personally partner with right here on this site. The featured organizations change so be sure to check back every once in a while.
Share What You Care (About): Y’all, caring is really sexy. And you can spend just as much time typing out an unimportant post on Facebook as you can linking a cause that you care about. Care. Share. Talk about it. Show your heart. Use your time and thumbs to make a difference, in whatever it is you care about. Chances are if you don’t care about child brides, but you care about health care, talking about how we can improve health care will directly effect child brides. World issues are rarely isolated or insulated. JUST GO DO IT.
The world is a complex and complicated place, where one global issue often has a profound impact on other issues. You can make a difference from the comfort of your couch, not only for the people impacted by child marriage, but for the people who work on this issue while short staffed and underfunded. While child marriage may not be your heart string issue, it is likely connected to an issue you care deeply about. When one improves, so does the other.
The truth is, alone we cannot solve this issue. It takes community stakeholders and dedicated partners to create lasting change.
You may not be a stakeholder. What a blessing that is.
You can be a partner. And we are here to help.
Because everyone deserves the chance at a love like mine.