On this day, a year ago, I accepted the African Union invitation for me to serve as Goodwill Ambassador for the continental campaign to end child marriage. Little did I know that this decision will impact me, my life and world view in such a profound and fundamental way. It hard to be trusted be such personal and private stories about one’s life or that of a dear one. I wonder if we really understand the depth of trauma, pain, stigma and all other bundles of scars that are associated with child and forced marriage. It has been a real awakening for me. A wake up call to the fact that it’s not about a single girl as a statistic and as testimony, it is about layers and layers of complex issues.
Next month, at the AU Summit, as the Heads of States adopt the Africa Common Position and step up the public advocacy on this issue, I have one single ask..Africa is filthy rich, poverty should NEVER be argument that families or girls can use as justification for child or forced marriage. Child marriage should NEVER be used as an option out of poverty.The continent has enough resources to provide for its daughters.
Neither should criminals who sexually abuse girls, hide behind the cloak of culture and faith. Its simple manipulation of values that should uphold dignity and respect human rights. We must definitely talk about adult men’s responsibility and accountability and go beyond the apologetic language of “male involvement and engagement”, and yet re-socialise boys to a new form of masculinity in which real men respect women.
It clear for me that this is fundamentally about status of women in society and gender inequality. The girls must have their voice, must have social and economic opportunities, and must choose who to marry and when and if they so make such a decision. We are all responsible. Every action counts, and thank you all who have stepped forward. Thanks to each one of you who have given me such extraordinary support during the year.
What is your advice to me for the coming year? With this mandate in hand, how best can I contribute to this effort such that we can truly end child marriage within a single generation?