I’m so happy to announce that the video for the June 13th United Against Harmful Practices is now on YouTube. Why am I happy? I’m happy because the awareness can be spread about the human rights abuses discussed during the Zoom meeting. No one should suffer child marriage or forced marriage.
Some individuals tried to stop our meeting by zoom bombing it. They tried to share inappropriate images, and tried to silence us, but we will not be silenced. It’s important to speak up about this and not be intimidated. The zoom recording would have been available a lot earlier had these horrible individuals not interfered. However, our recording is mostly unaffected except in one place where unfortunately one part was shorter than it should have been for one of the speakers. That speaker was amazing! She dealt with the interruption so magnificently, I was amazed.
Please do watch the video, as I believe it is enlightening, empowering and even educational. Where else have so many survivors all been under one roof so to speak (even if it was the Zoom roof) and told their very real and personal stories? We are doing this to spread awareness so that no other child should suffer what we went through. Thanks in advance for watching.
Join us for this Zoom Webinar which will take place on Saturday, June 13th at 11 AM PST / 2PM EST / 7 PM UK time and will feature survivors of forced marriage and child marriage who will speak their personal stories of the heartbreaking circumstances that led up to their human rights abuse, how they dealt with it and how they rose past it. This is not a presentation you want to miss as there are amazing speakers lined up. There will be five speakers, and Jasvinder Sanghera will be the moderator. Here is more information on the speakers.
Jasvinder Sanghera CBE
Founder of Karma Nirvana, and Forced Marriage Survivor
She is a highly acclaimed international speaker and an expert advisor to the courts in matters of child, civil and criminal proceedings, is a chair of domestic homicide reviews and was instrumental in ensuring that all UK police forces are required to improve their understanding of honour based abuse and forced marriage by inspections conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.
Her memoir ‘Shame’ was a Times Top 10 Bestseller and described in the House of Lords as a ‘political weapon’. Jasvinder is recognised as bringing the issue of forced marriage into the public domain and Prime Minister David Cameron stated that her work ‘turned my head on the issue of forced marriage’. Her work is recognised as being pivotal to the creation of a specific UK forced marriage criminal offence in 2014. Her successful claim of sexual harassment against a peer in the House of Lords was the first in its 479 year history and has already led to an increase in reporting and resulted in significant changes in the House of Lords policy and practice including greater debates and reforms, resulting in a House of Lords independent inquiry into sexual harassment and bullying.
She has received numerous awards including the prestigious Woman of the Year 2007. She was made an Honorary Doctor of the University of Derby in 2008. She was awarded The Pride of Britain Award in 2009 and was named Cosmopolitan Ultimate Woman of the Year in 2010. In 2011 she was listed in the Guardian’s top 100 Most Inspirational Women in the World and in 2012 received the Global Punjabi Award. She was awarded Commander of the British Empire in 2013 in recognition of her outstanding contribution for the victims of forced marriage and honour based abuse and in 2014 was awarded Legal Campaigner of the Year. Jasvinder is also listed as an entry in the 2016 edition of the book Who’s Who and in the same year received the International Woman Award for human rights from the Italian media. In 2018 she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law by De Montfort University, Leicester, Woman of the Year by Leeds City Council and in 2019 she was awarded the Robert Burns Humanitarian of the Year Award and also the Sikh Woman of Substance Award. For more information please visit: jasvindersanghera.com
Child Marriage Survivor
Dawn Tyree is an author, activist, speaker, and a founding member of The National Coalition to End Child Marriage in the U.S. The story of her experience as a child forced into marriage has been published in The New York Times, Reuters, and translated into more than 12 different languages. She was featured in a two-hour documentary on child marriage in the U.S. as part of the A & E Network docuseries, “I Was a Child Bride: The Untold Story” with Elizabeth Vargas that aired April 2019. A personal essay, “I Turned my Child Marriage Trauma into Activism” was published January 2020 in YES! Magazine. Her poem, “The Forest Dweller,” appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Portland Metrozine; and her essay “Spotlight On Child Marriage” was published in the Summer 2019 issue.
Twitter – @Dawnbtyree
Instagram – @dawnbtyree
Facebook – @DawnTyree
Forced Marriage Survivor
Davinder Kaur was born and raised in Bradford, England. She was just 14 years old when she was shown the picture of a man she would have to marry at the age of 18. Try as she might, Davinder could not get out of the agreement. Davinder knows only too well that many arranged marriages are really forced marriages. She escaped from her forced marriage 6 weeks after the marriage took place. She now shares her story in the aim of spreading awareness via social media as well as with public speaking. She is a strong believer in education first, then marriage, as her right to education was denied to her after High School as she was told that since marriage was on the agenda for her, there was no need for further education.
Davinder recently became a member of the National Coalition to End Child Marriage, as well as the California Coalition to End Child Marriage. She has already independently mentored a forced marriage victim from India who was referred to her by a friend, and now looks forward to mentoring forced marriage victims for Unchained At Last soon. Davinder wants to see an end to child marriage, not just here in California, but all over the USA, and all over the world. She met with Assemblymember Brian Maienschein’s office earlier in February 2020, to plea her case of ending child marriage in California and also presented her story as well as petition on Change.org. She’s hoping with the help of Unchained At Last and the CA Coalition to End Child Marriage, that California will become the next state to raise the marriage age to 18, with no exceptions.
Davinder welcomes you to sign her petition https://www.change.org/EndChildMarriageAndEndForcedMarriage as she feels that all petitions like this should be signed for very necessary change to take place. She would also like you to write a letter to support the Digital Letter Writing Campaign put together by the CA Coalition to End Child Marriage. Since Davinder lives in CA, this is where she will aim her attention first with making change. She also wants to see forced marriage criminalized here in the USA, just like it was in the UK. She is proud to have signed numerous petitions against forced marriage, and her signature was also on the petition to criminalize forced marriage in the UK. Davinder is a strong believer that oceans and borders are insignificant when it comes to the fight against human rights abuse. Anyone has the power to be part of change by adding their voice, and adding their signature. She also wants to see schools and colleges teach the students about human rights abuses such as child marriage, forced marriage and honor-based abuse. Davinder wants to see law enforcement trained here in the USA just like they were in the UK to improve their understanding of honor-based abuse and forced marriage.
Davinder moved to the USA when she was 22, and now lives in San Diego, where she graduated from university late in life with a Bachelors in Business Administration, and is the proud mother of three children. Her oldest daughter is 23 years old and has a Bachelor’s Degree, and is now pursuing a Master’s Degree in Nursing. Her son is 18 years old and at college and her youngest daughter is 11 years old. She likes to remind them about the importance of education first, then marriage! Davinder is in the process of writing her first book which is about her forced marriage experience.
Twitter – @luchank and @angel4many
Instagram – @luchanik
YouTube – @luchaniktravel
Facebook – @luchanik
Pinterest – @luchanik
Child Marriage Survivor
Sara Tasneem is a forced child marriage survivor. As a mentor and activist, she works publicly to enact legislation that would legally ban child marriage in United States. Sara works to create awareness of child marriage in the U.S. by sharing her story across national and international media outlets, through educational seminars, public speaking events, and by lobbying legislative bodies to end child marriage. She has a master’s degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Golden Gate University.
Sara volunteers with non-profit Unchained at Last as a mentor to young girls and women who are leaving their abusive forced child marriages and is a member of the steering committee for the National Coalition to End Child Marriage in the United States, She works with multiple non-profits along with other survivors to create a network of survivor led advocacy to end child marriage in the U.S.
At just fifteen, Tasneem was forced to marry a 28-year-old stranger. Sadly, she is not alone. Statistics from non-profit Unchained At Last report that 248,000 children as young as 12 were married in the United States between 2000 and 2010. 87% percent of minors who married between 2000 and 2015 were girls. (Frontline, 2017). According to Sara, ending child marriage in the United States is an uphill battle because each state must approve new bills limiting the age of marriage to 18. Many states, including California, are reticent to pass such bills because of age-old patriarchal views of marriage and pregnancy. In 2017, Delaware and New Jersey passed the marriage laws necessary to limit the age of marriage to 18 with no exceptions. After the age of 18, individuals are considered adults and can access the vital services they might need if they experience abuse or want to divorce their partners. Currently, 48 out of 50 states still allow children under the age of 18 to marry with parental consent. Join Sara in her fight to end child marriage in California today by signing her petition at Change.org.
Child Marriage Survivor, and Campaigner, IKWRO
Payzee Mahmod is a survivor of FGM and child marriage, who lost her sister Banaz in a tragic “honour” killing, Payzee’s is a Kurdish immigrant, raised in London, with a successful career in the fashion industry, she uses her voice to speak out and has made it her mission to be a change maker, helping to tackle these harmful practices.
Payzee has joined IKWRO in the Campaigns Team, she has reached international audiences speaking widely on the need for changes to the laws surrounding child marriage and “honour” based abuse in her TEDX talk, across radio, television and newspapers, including The Sunday Times and the BBC. Through speeches at Parliament and meeting with government officials and the Home Office Minister to explain first-hand why change is needed, Payzee campaigns for better education, training and legislation to finally make child marriage a crime.
Twitter & Instagram: @payzeemalika
Founder/Executive Director, Unchained At Last
Fraidy was 19 when her family arranged for her to marry a man who turned out to be violent. But with no education or job, in an insular religious community where only men have the right to grant a divorce, she felt trapped.
Still trapped at age 27, Fraidy defied her husband and community to become the first person in her family to go to college. She graduated from Rutgers University at age 32 as valedictorian (called “commencement speaker” at Rutgers).
Her family declared her dead, but Fraidy persevered: With her journalism degree, she was hired as a reporter for the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, eventually getting promoted to the paper’s elite investigative-reporting team. She went on to a career as an investigator at Kroll, the world’s largest investigations firm. At the same time, Fraidy managed to get divorced, win full custody of her two daughters and get a final restraining order against her ex-husband.
But Fraidy knows that most women and girls who want to flee or resist an arranged/forced marriage are limited by finances, religious law and social customs. For them, Fraidy founded and now leads Unchained At Last.
Fraidy is recognized internationally as an expert on forced and child marriage in America. Her writing on the subject has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post and countless other publications in the U.S. and beyond, and she has been interviewed and featured by those outlets as well as Financial Times, BBC, PBS, NPR, CBS and others. Legislation she helped to write to end or reduce child marriage has been introduced and, in some cases, already passed in multiple U.S. states.
Here is the flyer for the event and to register for the event, please do so at this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/united-against-harmful-practices-tickets-106806695702
Kids should be able to enjoy their childhood. No child needs to get married. I was engaged at the age of 14, (see video here) and even though the marriage didn’t take place until I was 18, it had all the elements of child marriage. I was not free to choose. I couldn’t say no. I was too young to know what was happening or to fight for my rights. My human rights were violated, and my freedom to choose was taken away from me. I was forced to marry a stranger, and was put into danger. This happened to me not in India, but in the UK. Every day, children are not lucky enough to even wait until the age of 18. They are being forced into marriage at age 10, 12, 14 – you name it. It’s happening here in the USA, and believe me, it’s happening right in your neighborhood. There is a child out there who could be a victim of child marriage and you may not even know it. This is why it has to be brought to the attention of the general public. It’s only through awareness that we can try to make a difference, that we can even try to bring about change, so this does not continue to happen. If it can happen in India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, many African countries, in the UK, and Denmark – then believe me – it happens here too!
Here’s an article for you to look at so that you can see for yourself: https://abcnews.go.com/US/child-brides-us-share-stories-exploitation-learning-wife/story?id=64589713 Sometime, it happens because girls get pregnant by their boyfriends, and they’re pushed into the marriage, either by the boyfriend or by the parents, so as not to bring shame on either of the families. However, many times, one or both the victims don’t even want the marriage, it’s the parents who thrust this punishment onto the child, in the name of culture and or tradition. It’s no one’s culture to abuse! We all have to stop this abuse, it’s our moral obligation to do so. Right now, people know they can get away with child marriage, in fact they can even go from one state to another to the one that will allow them to do the deed that should not be done – child marriage. I believe that anyone who enables this to happen (cake maker, the priest, the judge, the guests, the parents) is complicit in the abuse of that child, and the longtime suffering they will go through, so let’s just all bring about the necessary action – let’s end child marriage.
Until we raise the marriage age to 18 for everyone in the USA, we will not have done our very best for all children. Did you know that if parents give their consent to the marriage of an under-age child, a judge is very likely to sign off too and then a poor child is doomed to a life no child should have to embark on. Perhaps they blindly believe that parents have their children’s best interests at heart. But, sadly not all parents do. Parents are often the enablers of this cruel tradition that is a harmful practice. They are the ones that want their child married, whether it is to carry on a tradition, or to ensure the child marries appropriately, or does not stray into a relationship that would bring shame on the family – there are a multitude of reasons children, especially girls, are married off. Sometimes, it’s for horrible reasons such as immigration, where one person benefits at the expense of another! However, these reasons are a violation of a child’s basic human rights. Some traditions are best broken or ended, and it’s our job to call out harmful practices when we see them.
Just place yourself in a child’s shoes for just a moment and you will see this is no way to begin a life. A child forced into child marriage now has to serve a spouse in more ways than I would like to describe. However, describe it I must. No child should be subjected to sexual slavery just because they are now in a marriage that they were placed into. No child should be subjected to a life of domestic servitude and control, but this is very likely to happen when they are weak and vulnerable compared to the older spouse who has power and control over them. No child should have their health and safety compromised. Kids should not be giving birth to kids! I strongly believe in education first, then marriage. So many children are robbed of their right to education and placed into marriage as they are considered to be a burden.
If we don’t stop this cruel enabling of child marriage, we are letting our children down. We must ask ourselves “how would we like to be forced into marriage?” Let’s stop the perpetual cycle of abuse and also break the cycle of poverty. If kids are not allowed to pursue an education, they are much more likely to remain in poverty and be increasingly dependent on their spouse, and never be able to escape the unhappiness. Unhappiness often leads to domestic violence. Do we wish them to suffer one abuse after another? Let them have every opportunity they deserve instead of a lifetime of hardship.
I’m asking you as a very concerned citizen, please open your heart and stop the suffering of children. No child needs to be married. There’s no urgency. Marriage can wait until an individual is 18 years old, and as long as they are not forced into it. The real truth is that I would prefer that the marriage age be raised to 21 as I believe that when I was forced into marriage at 18, I was still way too young. How can being 18 be old enough when a week or few months before that you’re a child? Since I know we have to start somewhere with safeguarding children, I’m still willing to say 18 is way better than the alternative of allowing a child to marry prior to that age, so I’m definitely willing to work with this and hope to see a day when it’s raised to 21. I definitely say no to child marriage and no to forced marriage.
Please join me in signing this petition. I urge you for the sake of all children to raise the marriage age for all to 18 years of age. What I’m asking for is that a bill is passed in the House in California that would raise the marriage age to 18 without exceptions. Thank you.
Read to your child, it’s one of the most important things you can do. Give them the gift of an education. Do you know there are so many children – especially girls – who are deprived of an education? They would love to be read to and to have the gift of learning.
The importance of education for many girls in my opinion, is so that we need to break away from the mold that is most commonly made for us. We are expected to fit that mold perfectly, and therefore, we would be expected to just be domesticated wives, cooking, cleaning, and bringing up children. We are not expected to obtain a higher education, or go out and get a job in most cases. The importance of education therefore, is that we can break this stereotype. We need to be productive. We need to know there is more than just being a maid-servant, who is at someone’s beck and call. We need to have a bit more power. We need to have some control. Education can give us this, it can broaden our horizons, and show us that so much that happened to many is wrong, and can’t be continued. Education is power – it’s knowledge.
So next time, you read to your little girl – give her a hug, and spare more than a thought for other girls deprived of education for various reasons – complicated reasons that we would never wish upon our own girls. But, their pain needs to be our pain – for if we don’t fight for them, who will? If we are part of humanity, we must stop their pain and suffering and try our best to fight for an education for all. We must fight for an end to certain atrocities that are forced upon these girls, such as child marriage, child labor and human trafficking. Let girls be girls and not brides. Let girls be girls and not slaves, or victims. Give them an education, and break the cycle of certain cultural practices. When you pick up a book tonight to read to your little girl, give her a hug….and strive to make it a world where every little girl is being read to and more importantly, allowed to continue her education. Education first, then marriage.