When I was 14 years old, I was kidnapped for a marriage to a much older man, as depicted in the film Difret. On the day I was abducted, I was raped by my would be "husband." I knew I had to fight back and escape the first chance I got.
I was taken to a hut and locked up. When I received another visit from my abductor I saw my chance. When he was suddenly called away, he left his gun leaning against the wall and the door unlocked. My father had taught me how to fire a gun, so I took it and ran. When he and his friends chased me, I shot him. It was the most terrifying, horrible ordeal of my entire life -- and I'm one of the lucky ones.
I was accused of murder and after 2 years in the courts, the judge ruled that it was, in fact, self-defense. My trial led to a re-examination of this tradition and the Ethiopian government is now working to end child marriage and female genital cutting by 2025. In addition, the African Union recently launched a campaign to end child marriage across the continent.
I am now dedicating my life to working on this issue and to give voice to the screams of unheard rural women and girls. I don’t want to see the same story happen to any more girls. And yet, it still is.
You can help. Please join me in ending child marriage around the world by signing this petition, asking President Obama to sign the executive order that would help prevent an estimated 39,000 child marriages every day.
This petition is supported by Global Fund for Women, Ms Magazine, Equality Now and Truth Aid.
The Call to Action
We need the Obama Administration and the State Department to deliver what was promised: a comprehensive strategy for ending child marriage.
In March 2013, President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) that included a commitment to ending child marriage worldwide. The law requires the State Department to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to end child marriage and to direct U.S. foreign assistance to programs in countries where child marriage is prevalent. We are asking that this strategy be created and announced in 2015, and that it include the following whole-of government strategy:
+ Our foreign assistance agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, would be directed to craft evidence-based, stand-alone programs to delay the age of marriage, foster girls’ agency and choice and promote equitable and rights-based societies that give girls the tools they need to thrive, while also leveraging our considerable investments in such areas as health, education and food security to ensure these programs are being fully utilized to address related elements of the practice.
+ State Department diplomats on the world stage and in bilateral talks with countries that have high rates of child marriage would be directed to raise the issue of child marriage as a U.S. foreign policy priority, and would work to ensure that carrots—and, where necessary, sticks—are deployed to encourage meaningful action by all countries to end this global scourge. Such a strategy would recognize and institutionalize the fact that child, early and forced marriage impacts the whole life of the girl and that holistic, rights-based approaches are therefore necessary to end it.
+ A draft Strategy is sitting at the Department of State. While the President and the First Lady have recently launched an important effort to provide education for at-risk girls globally, until the President signs an Executive Order giving these efforts the full force of law, we cannot be certain that these efforts will be fully implemented and funded. And thus they will not make any real difference in the lives of girls all over the world.
Every day that we wait for the implementation of the new law to become reality, another 39,000 girls are married. This is unacceptable. When girls are forced into marriage early, entire communities miss out on their potential as change makers, economic drivers, and leaders. We must end child marriage to allow girls to realize their full potential in order to achieve the world we want. We need a coordinated, whole-of government strategy immediately.
You can help. Tell President Obama to issue an Executive Order directing the U.S. government to use its full force to protect and empower the world’s girls and end child marriage once and for all.
In U.S. Theaters October 23rd, 2015. Get tickets here: bit.ly/DifretInTheaters
Every day 39,000 girls are married—that’s 14.2 million girls per year. Child marriage is an unacceptable human rights violation that is happening in countries all across the world.
It’s time to give US efforts to protect and empower adolescent girls the full force of law: Sign an Executive Order authorizing a coordinated, whole-of-government Adolescent Girls Strategy immediately.
Please make these important efforts law today, so they will live on as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy tomorrow.
Aberash Bekele with Truth Aid started this petition with a single signature, and won with 156,002 supporters. Start a petition to change something you care about.