The following are excerpts from a World Vision report. It is our hope that this report, It Takes Children, will enforce that children and young people should be seen as change agents. All writing and photographs are by children and young people, aged 13 to 18.
All are part of the World Vision Young Leaders project, which aims to equip and empower them to engage in actions to end violence.
CHILD MARRIAGE IS VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN
By Abigail, 13, Young Leader from Ghana
Child marriage is when a young girl under 18 years of age is forced into marriage without her consent or will. This can be termed as violence because it is an infringement on the right of the individual or victim as stated by many United Nations documents.
Another cause of child marriage is financial difficulties faced by parents. Some parents are not financially stable and because of this, they are compelled to give their girl child into marriage so that they can receive money and gifts.
The third reason I would like to highlight as a cause of child marriage is custom and tradition. Among some tribes in Ghana, there a traditional practice called exchange marriage. This is a major cause of child marriage in the country. In practice, a man who is ready to take a wife, is obliged to also take a female from his family and present her to his wife’s family. So it is normal to see a nine or ten year old girl being exchanged as part of a marriage arrangement between two families.
We can prevent child marriage by enforcing the laws of the country. In Ghana it is illegal to marry a person below 18 years of age. If our law enforcement agencies are proactive and punish perpetrators, it will deter others from indulging in it.
We can end child marriage by talking more about it. We need to keep educating communities about the negative effects of child marriage. We have to also create support systems like child protection committees in the communities, which can protect children’s rights at the community level.
We also need to empower young girls to be able to insist on their rights and know the avenues of support available to them where they can report cases of child marriage.
WE HAVE TO TAKE ACTION
By Dana, 17, Young Leader from Romania
Violence affects us every single day, directly or indirectly. The problem with this phenomenon is that becomes accepted as normal and as such, there are not many people who will react when they witness it.
But there are people who are more exposed to it, for whom it is especially hard. They find it almost impossible, to defend themselves against violence; the homeless people, minorities, poor people, but, especially, children and women.
Violence is the response of some people who are unable to express their needs by words and they direct their anger towards the ones who are incorrectly considered to be weaker: children and women. We are not born violent; it’s not in our nature, as it is said. Being exposed several times to violence, will lead for sure to such behaviour. As an example, it’s more likely, for a woman to be physically, emotionally or financially abused by her partner and a child that lives under these circumstances will act violently to his peers. Moreover, their chances of become a violent adult are very high. So, there is a clear vicious circle that needs to stop.
We need to take this problem to a higher level, as we are doing here today. It may take a lot of time, because here, we are talking about changing a mentality that has lasted for too many years already. We need to educate the children, teachers and the parents, especially the young ones, that violence is not the answer and that it causes scars deeper than the marks on the skin. It’s a hard mission; it’s true, because every situation is different. But we cannot dream about a developed society, if we still continue to disrespect the others and be aggressive.
I am a Young Leader and I dream of a world without violence, based on peace and respect. Yes, you can call me a dreamer, but I know that every single person here has exactly the same dream. So, let’s be those dreamers who changed their dream into reality!