An organization in the United Kingdom, Plan-UK, is partnering with thousands of schools in the country to educate students about an issue that is affecting young girls around the world: early and forced marriage. Plan has created an animated film and learning plan called “The Right to Say No,” which can be used to help educate students about this issue.
“Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights, a form of domestic abuse and, where it affects children and young people, child abuse,” said Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Equalities and Criminal Information. “The government is already taking action, both in the UK and abroad, to raise awareness of the issue and protect those at risk. …I welcome the involvement of NGOs like Plan UK, whose new school resources pack is an example of the valuable work a number of charities are doing to provide information and support to local communities.”
Around the world, ten million girls who are under the age of 18 are forced to marry every year. This is 27,397 girls every day, or 19 girls every minute. In England, there were 1,735 cases of forced marriage last year. The holiday season is when many of these girls are forced into marrying a man who lives in another country and could be three times as old as them.
In order to draw attention to this problem, many schools will begin using “The Right to Say No” education materials before the end of the term. “The Right to Say No,” is based on the experiences of one 16-year old British girl who was forced into an early marriage in Pakistan.
“I decided to go on holiday to Pakistan and I went for about four months roughly,” she said. “While I was there, I was told to enjoy my life, to let go and have a break from my studies for a while. I then came back from Pakistan and was just told I was engaged. One of my uncles called, which was soon to be my father-in-law and he said to me, ‘I’m really, really proud that you’re going to be in my family and congratulations. You’re going to be my daughter-in-law.’ That was the first I ever knew of my marriage taking place.”
After her marriage turned physically abusive, she ran away with her two children and stayed in a refuge in London. Unfortunately, her family tracked her down and told her she had to come back or they would kill her.
Many of the families that are involved in these cases are from South Asia, in particularly from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Hopefully, this new program will help stop this trend from continuing or expanding.
“This is the first national effort to provide materials for use in British classrooms on the issue of early and forced marriage,” said Marie Staunton, CEO of Plan UK. “Overseas early and forced marriage is one of the biggest development challenges of our time.”