Archbishop Desmond Tutu

International Day of the Girl: End Child MarriageInternational Day of the Girl: End Child Marriage

My grandmother married at 8 years old; my mother married at age 15.

I often wonder what their lives --- their potential --- would have been, if they were not child brides.

Today, the same pattern is repeated in villages and cities around the world. Every year, nearly ten million girls are forced into marriage before they reach the age of 18 --- with little or no say in the matter.

That’s more than 25,000 girls a day; 19 girls each minute.

These girls are denied the opportunity to fulfill their potential for healthy and productive lives. When they enter marriage, most drop out of school and enter a world where they work from dusk to dawn to provide labor to the households. From their mothers' care they are transferred to the supervision of their husbands and mothers-in-law, who view them as an additional labor source. Pressured to demonstrate their fertility, they get pregnant when they are still children and face the risk of illness or death when they deliver.

And some child brides are as young as eight or nine.

MSH's 40th anniversary year has been a catalyst to revisit our origins, recommit to our mission and renew our values. As we approach the holidays and look toward 2012, I’d like to share reflections on one of the most poignant events of the year for me: my recent visit with Mrs. Fumiko Iwamura in Japan. Fumiko-san is the widow of Dr. Noboru Iwamura, who inspired our founder Ron O’Connor to create MSH.

MSH President Jonathan Quick and Fumiko Iwamura. (Japan, 2011) Photo credit: Miho Sato.

 

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