A girl saved from child marriage in Afghanistan sits in a small, bare room with her mother
1 January 2021

Escaping child marriage

How you’re protecting girls in Afghanistan

Child marriage - in their words

Ilham*, 11, lives in Afghanistan with her mother and her three siblings. Her young life was turned into turmoil when she discovered that her dad had promised to sell her into a marriage.

Ilham’s mum, Rowaida, 26, bravely challenged the marriage after learning about her rights at a World Vision community change group. Having been married herself at the age of 11, she was determined to stop the same thing happening to her daughter.

Ilham and Rowaida share their story in their own words.

*Ilham’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

Ilham's story

"I came home from school one day and saw flowers and new clothes. That’s how I found out I was going to be married.

But I didn’t want the flowers and clothes because I didn’t want to be married. I was very upset and I cried. I want to stay in school so I can become a teacher. I love going to school and I love playing with my friends. I’d be a good teacher and I’d be kind to the students. I’d like to teach painting.

If I was married, it would be very difficult. I’d be very miserable and would go to someone else’s house and they wouldn’t let me go to school.

None of my friends want to be married. They want to go to school like me."

Rowaida's story

"I was only 11 when my father sold me into marriage. Back then, I didn’t know that women had rights."

Since attending the community change group run by World Vision, Rowaida knew what was happening to Ilham was wrong.

"If I hadn’t attended these sessions, my daughter would have been forced into marriage. I knew that if she got married, she wouldn’t be able to continue her education. I went to my uncle who is influential in the government. He went to my husband and said, “If you do this it will be illegal, and you will be put in jail.”

Unfortunately, Rowaida’s husband became angry and after an argument, Rowaida escaped the family home with her four children to live with her brother.

She said, “I’m worried about my children. I can’t sleep and all I can think about is their future. Because of our difficult financial situation, we live in this one room. I do whatever I can. I wash clothes to be able to afford supplies so they can go to school.

My family says if I agree to her marriage, she will have a good life and we will have something to eat. That is the same thing they told me. I told them I would rather go and live in a tent, but I won’t marry Ilham off.

When I hear Ilham’s dreams, I know I’ll do whatever I can to help my daughter achieve them. We’re not just a mother and daughter, we’re friends.”

Your support means families and local leaders are learning about the dangers and consequences of child marriage at community change groups. Here families learn about child rights and that children, especially girls, can continue with their education, providing them with hope for a brighter future.

With your help, we’ll continue to save and protect the most vulnerable children living in the world’s hardest places. We'll help them survive, recover from trauma and rebuild a future.

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World Vision is ensuring that children are provided with access to healthcare, education and protection. How?

Preventing the spread: We’re increasing preventative measures to limit the spread of the virus, by setting up public handwashing stations, distributing soap, and providing reliable information.

Strengthening health systems and workers: By working with community health workers, we’re providing training and personal protective equipment.

Supporting children: We’re supporting children by providing education materials to enable remote learning during the lockdown, as well as psychological support to help families cope with stress.

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Our goal is to limit the spread of coronavirus and reduce its impact on vulnerable children and their families. Weaker healthcare and communication systems mean that the secondary impact of this virus on children living in some of the world’s most dangerous places will be devastating. Thanks to you, World Vision staff across the globe are continuing to scale up prevention where children are most at risk. With your help, we will continue to keep the world’s most vulnerable children and their communities safe.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where is World Vision responding to the crisis? 

World Vision is active in nearly 100 countries. When disaster strikes, we are active on the ground, quickly providing immediate support. We are responding in over 70 countries, aiming to reach 72 million people through a $350 million response, with a special focus where people are most vulnerable.

Some examples:

Africa
In Malawi, some communities still did not believe that they could contract COVID-19. After awareness campaigns were conducted, these communities are now adopting preventive measures like putting on face masks and washing of hands. World Vision has also provided PPE to health centres after some communities expressed concern over the lack of supplies.

Asia
In Vietnam, our staff have worked closely with local radio stations to disseminate vital knowledge and skills, helping to ensure communities stay safe.

Latin America & the Caribbean
In Brazil, hospital ship ‘Solidarity’ made its second trip along the Solimões River to reach vulnerable children and families. World Vision is visiting 12 communities, delivering aid to more than 500 families.

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In Lebanon, our rapid assessments after August’s explosion showed that food, shelter and hygiene items were urgently required and we were able to start distributions straight away. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment kits will also be required to prevent the virus spread and reduce the impact on an overstretched health system.

 

2. How is World Vision responding? 

Our response focuses on three key areas:

1. Promoting preventative measures to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19

We’re promoting hand washing and respiratory hygiene amongst communities and households, and both working with community health workers and volunteers and using digital channels to share the messages more widely. We have also been setting up public handwashing stations and distributing soap, sanitiser and masks where appropriate.

2. Supporting health systems and workers

We have been providing personal protective equipment (e.g. masks and gowns) and treatment supplies (e.g. thermometers); training and equipping community health workers to help with home care for the sick, to share stay-healthy messaging, and to help run isolation centres and transport for the sick.

3. Supporting children impacted by COVID-19

Education: Including, supporting authorities to ensure safe school operations (promoting procedures for staff and students that become unwell, information sharing and targeted age-specific health education), supporting children, families and teachers to continue education if schools are closed (e.g. home learning materials/activity packs).

Child Protection: Including, awareness-raising with Child Protection/social workers; preventing separation and stigmatisation of children and caregivers during treatment and isolation; psychological first aid for children and caregivers; monitoring and responding to increases in child labour, begging, abuse, sexual violence, or neglect.

Livelihoods: Including providing cash and vouchers, and distributing food and care packs for people in isolation.

 

3. How is World Vision positioned to support vulnerable children during the crisis? 

World Vision has a presence in almost 100 countries around the world. We work with the most vulnerable children and communities facing the challenges created by poverty and injustice.

Partnerships with faith leaders: Our work is inspired by our Christian faith, and our partnerships with faith and community leaders are critical as we join hands to strengthen preparedness, change behaviour and protect children and other vulnerable people.

Our Channels of Hope programme already equips faith leaders to support their communities when epidemics arise. Our experience with Ebola and Zika viruses has shown that when trusted faith leaders engage with their communities, real breakthroughs can be achieved in slowing the spread of disease.

We’re working alongside 7,000 faith leaders in 80 countries, sharing messages about prevention. And we know that this community approach is effective.

Child Sponsorship: Our Child Sponsorship model empowers communities to support vulnerable children and their families through sustainable approaches to build child-wellbeing.

We employ local staff members and volunteers who usually live within or close to the communities where they work. They are seen as friends, confidants, encouragers and trustworthy partners which is vital during a pandemic response.

Our staff are working with their local communities to amplify prevention and control messages whilst supporting the protection of children. This may involve supporting education whilst schools are closed, preventing separation of children from their caregivers during treatment and isolation, and delivering livelihood activities and cash, food and care packs to people in isolation.

 

4. How are my donations to World Vision helping? 

Your donations are helping save and protect children in the world’s most dangerous places; wherever they are most needed. This includes preventing the spread of coronavirus and reaching children with remote learning and psychological support to help them recover from their trauma and rebuild a future.