I Demand Justice

Recently, I was walking in my neighborhood in Lagos, Nigeria, with my sister and my father. As we walked, I explained to them my fears of walking through the streets when it was so dark. My sister confidently replied, “We will be safe if anything happens because we have a man to protect us.”

This should not be the case. Men should not have to protect women from violence.

In many communities, women and girls need protection because violence against them is so prevalent. According to the World Health Organisation, 35% of women and girls around the world will experience intimate partner or non-partner violence in their lifetime. Every two minutes, a woman is sexually assaulted in the United States. That equates to 30 women every hour, and 7,200 women every day. In a recent post by blogger Diane, I learnt that some girls in India are born into brothels and are “bred” for a life of abuse, exploitation and violence.

Violence against women and girls must stop.

When I hear stories of girls who experience violence and stigmatization, I am infuriated. In October 2013, a Nigerian girl was gang raped by three unidentified men. This young girl committed suicide because of stigmatization and shame. She was ostracized in her community because she was raped. She did not deserve to experience such pain and trauma. At this moment, 223 school girls are still missing in Nigeria after being kidnapped.

It is for girls in Nigeria and around the world that I demand justice.

I demand justice because:

  • No girl should be raped, sexually abused or exploited
  • No girl should be cut
  • No girl should be trafficked
  • No girl should feel her only option is to commit suicide because of shame and stigmatization.

I demand justice because all human beings were born equal with the same inalienable human rights.

A young girl once told me “to be a woman is to feel pain.” I want this to change. Imagine a world without violence against women and girls. We would be free to walk on the streets without fear. Girls would not experience the pain and trauma of rape, FGM, abuse or neglect.

“There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities. Violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.” Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

I demand justice for the millions of girls who experience violence everyday. Do you?

Share your ideas below or tweet us @GirlsGlobe

Cover Photo Credit: Stefano Peppucci, Flickr Creative Commons

Let’s celebrate Her Day!

As the world celebrates the run up to October 11th, at Her Turn we are amazed at all the amazing events, screenings, debates, articles and talks organized by so many various groups around the globe, that all raise awareness around the issues girls face worldwide.

To contribute, we produced the Her Day video. It was made entirely through volunteer contributions from development workers and caring friends from around the globe. We hope you enjoy it.

Big thank you to the participating organizations: More Than Me, PEPY Cambodia, CMAP and many amazing people from around the world who helped to make it happen. Most importantly, thank you to all the amazing girls who shared their ideas with us!

Music: Meant To Be by Rob Costlow.
Directed and created by Ola Perczynska (Her Turn) and Daniel Coyle.

Visit Her Turn.
Join Her Turn on Facebook.

Child Marriage: The World is Waking Up

Approximately 14 million girls under the age of 18 are married each year. According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), if present trends continue, 142 million girls will be married over the next decade. These facts and statistics are staggering. In a recent post, I highlighted the gross injustice and harmful effects that girls suffer as a result of this traditional practice.

Comprehending the issue of child marriage is overwhelming. The good news is:

The world is waking up to this injustice.

News stories, articles, television interviews and social media feeds have been flooded with one outcry:

Stop Child Marriage.

Image Courtesy of BudgIT
Image Courtesy of BudgIT

A recent change in Nigeria’s constitution, concerning the minimum age of marriage, has spurred on weeks of protests and controversy across the country. The Nigerian Feminist Forum responded immediately with a press release to explain the situation. On July 16, Nigerian Senators met to review a portion of the Constitution. An initial vote was cast to delete a portion of the Constitution which stated  “any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.” Senator Ahmed Yerima challenged the deletion and voted to keep the controversial clause.

Image Courtesy of Aljazeera
Image Courtesy of Aljazeera

It is important to note that the clause in the Constitution does not legalize child marriage. However, many activists are concerned that the clause legitimizes the traditional practice. According to the Population Council, 73% of girls in Nigeria are married before the age of 18.

In response to the Nigerian Senate’s decision, social media activists have launched the #ChildNotBride campaign and have captured the attention of millions. Activists, women and children are making a declaration, protesting online through social media as well as in the streets of Nigeria. Since the change in Nigeria’s Constitution, a petition to the United Nations in opposition of child marriage in Nigeria has spread rapidly.

In the United States, advocacy groups are calling for stronger relationships with governments and the private sector to better prevent child marriage and its consequences.

Nada al-Ahdal, an 11 year old Yemeni girl, has brought the issue of child marriage to the media forefront. In Yemen, 47% of girls are married before the age of 18. Nada’s recent Youtube video went viral, receiving 7 million views on Youtube over three days.

Nada argues against child marriage, insisting that she would rather die than be a child bride. The video is a public declaration in which Nada directly opposes her family’s wishes to marry her to an older man.

Fox News recently interviewed Ann Warner, Senior Gender Advisor for the ICRW. The world must overcome several challenges to end child marriage. As highlighted in the video interview, poverty and gender inequality are significant factors that lead to child marriage. Many families believe that they are protecting their daughters through early marriage.

The question still remains:

What will it take to end child marriage?

Global awareness is a good start. Now more than ever before, global citizens are becoming aware and taking action to prevent child marriage. On Tuesday, Girls Not Brides released a technical briefing on child marriage. This report highlights the necessary steps that must be addressed in order to bring an end to child marriage.

At Girls’ Globe, we believe promoting, enhancing, and expanding universal access to education and empowering youth advocates are essential components in the fight to prevent child marriage. We’ve done our part. Now it’s your turn. Spread the word about the consequences of child marriage and sign the petition to show your support.

Cover image courtesy of Change.org

Maternal Mortality: Progress and Potential in Nigeria

Image courtesy of The Global Poverty Project
Image courtesy of The Global Poverty Project

When it comes to achieving Millennium Development Goal 5 – reducing maternal mortality ratio by 75 percent and granting universal access to reproductive health by 2015 – Nigeria is fighting an uphill battle. Here are some quick facts to illustrate just how staggering maternal healthcare (or lack thereof) is in Nigeria:

  1. Nigeria is currently ranked among the top ten most dangerous countries for a woman to give birth, placed alongside Afghanistan, Haiti, Liberia and Sudan.
  2. In 2010, approximately 40,000 women passed away giving birth and another 1 to 1.6 million suffered serious disabilities related to their pregnancy and/or childbirth.
  3. Data from The World Health Organization suggests that 630 of every 100,000 childbirths result in a maternal death.
  4. Nigerian women face a 1 in 29 chance of dying from childbirth whereas the average risk throughout Sub-Saharan Africa is 1 in 39.  (The risk in developed countries is as low as 1 in 3,800.)

To clarify: 14 percent of all maternal deaths in the world occur in Nigeria.

However, not all hope is lost.  Abiye and Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development are two programs currently working to decrease maternal mortality in Nigeria.

The Abiye program, meaning “Safe Motherhood” in the Yoruba language, was launched in 2009 by Nigeria’s Ondo State government and has already seen major progress in diminishing maternal deaths in the region.  The success of Abiye is often attributed to Governor Olusegun Mimiko, the Ondo State health commissioner and brains behind the program.  The program began with extensive surveys at the community level, allowing programmers to gain a better understanding of why Nigeria suffered from such a high maternal mortality rate. Investigators discovered four major “delays” contributed to maternal deaths that inevitably became the backbone of the program:

1)    The delay in deciding to seek care (due to education, mistrust of health facilities, or family constraints);

2)    The delay in reaching care (due to distance, infrastructure, or communication);

3)    The delay in receiving appropriate care upon arrival (due to inadequate manpower, supplies, drugs, or health infrastructure);

4)    The delay in referral (when complications beyond local facility capacities arise).

The Abiye program works to eliminate problems surrounding these delays through various means and has, so far, experienced dramatic improvement in maternal health.  Before implementation, health facilities in the Ondo State delivered approximately 100 children annually. Within one year, healthcare facilities completed more than 2,000 deliveries and after two years that number rose to more than 6,000. A 2013 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies highlights the Abiye program as a major success and encourages others to seek similar innovative approaches towards improving maternal health.

The next question you might be asking is: How can I help? This is where Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development comes into play.  The program – affiliated with major international development players including USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DFID, Grand Challenges Canada, the World Bank, and the Government of Norway – challenges others to find innovative tools, ideas and/or approaches for the prevention and treatment of pregnant women and newborns in poor, hard-to-reach communities.  The program aims to foster a community of learning and innovation in order to:

1)    Support the development and health outcomes for pregnant women and their babies in low-resource settings;

2)     Develop, refine, and test the impact of solutions that have previously measured promising health outcomes in a limited setting and have the potential for scale-up.

Saving Lives at Birth’s unique approach could only be successfully implemented in today’s interconnected world of Facebook and Twitter.  By using social media to its advantage, thousands of potential solutions are submitted and evaluated, thereby increasing the possibility that a solution to Nigeria’s maternal mortality epidemic is within our grasp.

Sources/Read More:

Maternal Health in Nigeria: With Leadership, Progress is Possible

Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development

Nigeria: Studies Pick Ondo Health Project As Most Promising Cure for Childbirth Deaths