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Taking action to end child and forced marriage

By: Blake Richards

  |  Posted: Thursday, Aug 21, 2014 12:23 pm

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On July 4th, our government announced that Canada will contribute additional funding to UNICEFís efforts to end child and forced marriage.

This project will support efforts to end child marriage in six countries where the practice is prevalent: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Yemen and Zambia.

While the concept of forced marriage seems foreign to most Canadians, the truth is that it is common practice in many countries burdened by gender discrimination. It happens, around the world, 39,000 times every day.

The practice of child and forced marriage may be widespread, however the consequences are extremely personal and intensely felt.

Child marriage denies children, particularly girls, the right to make choices about their lives. These girls are stripped of their dignity sometimes even before they understand the concept. Dehumanized at a young age, they are often forced to give birth before they are ready to care for children. They are often denied the opportunity to receive education, trapping entire families and communities in a cycle of poverty.

Faced with the facts about such widespread disregard for human rights, we cannot simply dismiss this situation as a cultural or traditional quirk.

In an increasingly interconnected world, where the consequences of such repression are rarely limited to a single jurisdiction, it is clearly in humanityís interest to take action.

I am proud to report that Canada is playing a role in ending child and forced marriage.

Last year we made significant headway within the United Nations, leading to a resolution on child and forced marriage at the Human Rights Council, followed by a resolution from the General Assembly.

In October 2013, we backed up our words with funding, providing $5 million to tackle this issue, and this monthís announcement further builds on our efforts.

To achieve our goal, we must also concentrate on raising public awareness about this issue.

Last year, our country co-sponsored the United Nations Population Fundís Too Young to Wed photo exhibit.

These powerful photos and stories put a real human face on this issue, and I encourage you to see them online at: www.TooYoungToWed.org. Please visit this site and learn more about ways you can take action to #StopChildMarriage.

The bottom line is that through an institutionalized system of repression, far too many girls are being denied the opportunity to find their voice. If we donít speak up for them, who will?


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