Girls visit the US Congress and deliver over 11,000 letters to senators

By Saba Fasil
August 04 2010

Tigrai Online - The kids gather to lobby congress on July 15, 2010. Courtesy Photo.Washington, DC – On July 15th 2010, 40 youth (20 of whom came from the Ethiopian Community Center in DC) descended on the US Senate urging lawmakers to pass “The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act.” There are already an estimated 60 million girls worldwide who are child brides, without serious action to end this harmful tradition 100 million more girls are expected to be forced into marriage in the next decade. These young global citizens were delivering over 11,000 letters to each and every Senator, hoping to help girls all across the globe have a brighter future.

Each letter, written by Plan USA supporters in each of the 50 states, is asking the Senators for support of “The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act,” so that no girl ever has to be forced into marriage, at ages as young as seven!

Helina, a student at Cardozo Senior High School in Washington , D.C. , is one of the leaders of the youth delegation. She was born in Ethiopia where half of all girls are married by age 14 in the northern Amhara region. "Child marriage is terrible,” says Helina. “Kids should be able to stay in school and get an education, and not be forced into marriage. We need to do something about it. We have to make sure people are aware of this situation."

Sixteen-year-old Shayna, a D.C. student at School Without Walls says, “It is important for girls my age or younger to go through their childhood experience in a positive way so they can grow and become strong young women, and know what it is they want for themselves and get proper education, develop friendships and connections with others. Ultimately having strong and beautiful young women in this world will make this world a better place."

Mamadou,12, is a boy trying to stand up for girls, something you don’t usually see on the school playground. But he wants to help stop the practice of child marriage, a tradition that stands to affect 100 million more girls in the coming decade. “It just basically messes up your whole life. Just imagine yourself as a young child wanting to be a doctor. But then you get married at a young age, do you really think that those dreams are still alive?”

Pair that empathy with the excitement of Nardos,10, and you’ve got a marathon of delivering letters and talking to Senate staffers. Nardos, a young Ethiopian-American girl, was brimming with excitement to be walking into Senate offices, gladly hopping up from a Congressional hearing about child marriage to speak to Senate aides.

Hopefully this youth-led marathon will help push the Senate, in its final marathon before adjourning for the year, to pass this important act, and help millions and millions of girls worldwide have the chance to be just girls, not wives.

These young global citizens are participants of “Because I am a Girl” – Plan International’s campaign to fight gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls out of poverty.Tigrai Online - The kids on the hallways of Rayburn US Congress Bldg
where they handed 11,000 letters to Senators lobbying for the
support of H.R. 2103. – (Photo by Saba Fassil – July 15, 2010)