Tag Archive | education

United Against Harmful Practices Video – Featuring Survivors of Child Marriage and Forced Marriage

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.

End Child Marriage and End Forced Marriage

Kids should be able to enjoy their childhood. No child needs to get married.  I was engaged at the age of 14, 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 (I have started a Change.org petition – Please sign it at www.change.org/EndChildMarriageAndEndForcedMarriage

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!

Sometimes, child marriage (defined as a marriage of a minor under the age of 18) or forced marriage (which can happen to anyone including children or adults) 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, and let’s also focus on ending forced marriage too as even adults who are 18 years of age and older can be forced into 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.

Also, it should be important for you to know that the marriage age has only been raised to 18 in two states only – New Jersey and Delaware.  None of us should rest until it is raised to 18 in every state in the USA without exceptions!  This means no exceptions – no signing off by parents giving their consent for their under-age child to marry!

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, in fact a bill should be passed in every state in the USA, that would raise the marriage age to 18 without exceptions.  Furthermore, all countries should be doing the same so that kids everywhere are protected.  Forced marriage needs to be a crime here in the USA just like it is in the UK – yes, it’s now a criminal offense in the UK to force anyone into marriage – this law was passed at least five years ago. Please remember that forced marriage is human slavery, and a form of human trafficking. Let’s not stop until we end child marriage and forced marriage everywhere.  It doesn’t matter where you live, you can sign and make a difference.  Abuses have no barriers of distance, neither does helping another human being.  Thank you.

For More Information:

If you want to know more about forced marriage or child marriage, the following organizations can be contacted. The following organizations exist in the UK:  Karma Nirvana, IKWRO,and The Sharan Project.  The UK is 10 steps ahead of the USA in awareness and Karma Nirvana even trains law enforcement so that the signs that someone could be a potential forced marriage victim can be spotted; and the correct plan of action is carried out to help a victim, and not send them back in harm’s way.  There are so many charities there now that exist to help victims – there’s probably at least thirty if not more.

Here in the USA, we are making progress.  We now have Tahirih Justice Center, Unchained At Last, California Coalition to End Child Marriage | Global Hope 365 and the AHA Foundation.  We also have great organizations involved in the fight to end child marriage world-wide, such as Girls Not Brides, Freedom United, and Plan International.

For Further Reading

Child Marriage Is Still Happening In The US And Around The World 

US Child Brides Share Stories

More Petitions For You To Sign

Here’s a petition to stop child marriage in New York.  Naila Amin was forced to marry at the age of 13!  This should anger everyone, and everyone should ask how did this happen here in the USA? I like to share because I signed that petition too – it can never hurt to sign as many petitions that come across your way, especially if you can help those that are most vulnerable, and have no voice.  Please sign Naila Amin’s petition

Here’s another petition to stop child marriage in California.  Sara Tasneem was just 15 years old when she was forced into child marriage.  She gives some great reasons in her petition as to why child marriage has to stop.  I encourage you to sign her petition too. Like I said, sign all the ones you come across, it doesn’t hurt, and hopefully it will help. Please sign Sara Tasneem’s petition

Here’s another petition to stop child marriage in the UK.  Even though forced marriage is a criminal offense there, child marriage is still occurring and again, it’s the same problem as what we have in the USA – judges are going off the parents consent, and we have to stop this from happening.  This petition was started by Payzee Mahmod, who was forced into marriage at the age of 16, and who lost her sister Banaz Mahmod to an honor killing.  Honor killing is a by-product of what can happen to a girl if she doesn’t give into an arranged marriage or forced marriage.  I’ve signed this petition too – it doesn’t matter where you live, just sign – we are all in this together!  Please sign Payzee Mahmod’s petition.

The Importance Of Education

image 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.

Her Name Is Chandra…..Not Shaandra

Happy New Year everyone!  I haven’t written much lately, but what can I say….life has been busy!  Today, I am deviating from my usual topics of travel to something about my little girl – her name.  Her name is Chandra, and I’m kind of getting irritated that she keeps on getting called Shaandra.  I distinctly remember telling her Kindergarten teacher on the first day of school about my daughter’s name and how to pronounce it.  Yet, I have noticed that she keeps on referring to her as Shaandra (I elongate the name the way Americans pronounce it – quite stretched out).  But, not only does the teacher call her Shaandra, now all her classmates and the entire school (everyone who knows her there) is calling her the same name.

What would you do in a situation like this?  I let it go for a while, but then I brought it up to the teacher’s attention at a conference in the politest way that I could as it feels like I am almost being mean by telling someone they are wrong, but this is my daughter’s name and it’s important.  I know Chandra has told her teacher too that her name starts with a “Ch”, but she is also being ignored.  I was ignored in the parent/teacher conference too as two minutes later in the conversation, I heard the teacher again say “Shaandra”.  What could I do?  Should I have said “excuse me, you just got my daughter’s name wrong again?”.  This is kind of a complex problem.  However, I did remind her at the end of the conference about Chandra’s name, and if she could please try calling her Chandra and not Shaandra.  She said she would try to remember to consciously think about the pronunciation of my daughter’s name, however, I believe she did not make an effort at all since I asked Chandra later in the day after school whether her teacher had started to call her Chandra, and she told me she still calls her Shaandra.  I was quite disappointed.  I told Chandra to correct her teacher the next day, but sadly she told me her teacher just ignored her.  The other day I hear a sixth grader who seemed really nice, say “Hi, Shaandra” and I almost wanted to say “her name is Chandra”.  When I told Chandi (that’s her nickname) that she should have told her, she said that would be mean.

I can relate to the teacher in some ways, since I used to mispronounce someone’s name – when a  family friend  had been introduced to me with an incorrect pronunciation, that’s how I used to say his name, and that is how I thought his name was pronounced.  It finally dawned upon me that we were saying it incorrectly (me and my kids and the person who had introduced us to the family friend), and even though it was hard to change the way I said it, it was the only correct thing to do.  After all, I wasn’t pronouncing his name properly and that wasn’t fair, so I made the effort, and now it’s easy to say it properly.  The teacher must do this very same thing too.  After all, she is a teacher and should be concerned about pronouncing the names of all her students properly – after all they are her students and she is influencing all the other students to say my daughter’s name incorrectly.  Now, other parents are saying it incorrectly, as well as the sixth grader and who knows how many others in the school?  Is anyone paying attention to my little Chandi?  She does count.  Her name counts.  I wish they would say her name properly.  It’s Chandra with a “Ch” and not with a “Sh”.  Prince Charles would not be amused if you called him Prince Sharles.  It would be quite unpardonable.  Anyway, why do Americans find it hard to say “Ch” as in Charles and seem dispositioned to make a “Sh” noise when something is spelt with a “Ch”.  In England, we would not have this problem.  “Ch” is quite clearly a “ch” noise and we got taught “Ch” for Charles, “Ch” for cheese, “Ch” for charming.  Where did “Sh” come into the picture?  “Sh” is clearly “Sh” for “shine”, “Sh” for “shoe” and “Sh” for shirt.  They are distinctly different.  Should I be telling a Kindergarten teacher this or should she be teaching this very same thing to these 4, 5 and 6 year olds?

As to the next step in this matter, perhaps I have to send an email to the teacher and ask her to please apply more effort and to address the entire class so that they will also make an effort and pronounce my daughter’s name properly.  If this doesn’t work, then I might have to address the entire school in an assembly and appeal to them to say my little girl’s name properly.  Am I making too much of this?  I would do anything for Chandra, and I think teaching people to pronounce her name properly is one of the best gifts that I can give her, otherwise she will struggle unfortunately with people telling her that her name is not Chandra, it’s Shaandra…..yes, this is happening already.  My daughter does know her own name, please give her credit for that.

At Legoland

At Legoland

Here are some pictures taken in Washington, DC:

The Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC

The Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC

World War Two Memorial

World War Two Memorial

IMG_0168

Incase you are wondering how to pronounce this Princess’ name, it’s really simple…..here’s the Indian sounding pronunciation of it:

http://www.pronouncenames.com/search?name=chandra

Here’s another version:

http://www.howjsay.com/index.php?word=Chandra

I couldn’t record my own voice easily into a similar soundbite, so I was compelled to delve into my video footage and I made another video (it’s been awhile!) – it’s a brief clip of the Washington, DC World War Two Memorial:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQhIGMUlbA0

In the video, it starts off with me talking to Chandra, so you’ll hear me say her name.  We all have our own accents and our own pronunciation and that is fine, but just please don’t call her Shaandra.

International Day Of The Girl

Happy International Day of The Girl!  October 11th has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly to be the “International Day Of The Girl Child”.  This is the second Day Of The Girl, as this day was recognized in honor of girls beginning on October 11th, 2012.

For millions of girls all around the world who don’t get equal rights for whatever reasons, this is your day!  So many girls don’t get the right to an education, because other “priorities” such as marriage are forced upon them.  Education can open up the doors to a wider understanding of the world around us, and this is our right.  Celebrate the Day Of The Girl today, and hopefully one day girls everywhere will get the right to an education.

With an education, girls everywhere can become all they desire to be, they can be a scientist, judge, teacher, lawyer, doctor, and they can become leaders.  They can make it to the other side of the gates of the White House.

The White House, Washington, DC

I know that my children will get an education, and it won’t stop at just High School, as so many other girls’ educations do (if they are lucky enough to get that far).  I will give them the gift, and their right to go to college.

Oh, by the way…..this day is also for women who may have suffered the lack of education in the past due to circumstances such as those described or for any other reasons not mentioned.  Happy Day Of The Girl.

To find out more about Day Of The Girl, visit http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/

Happy Day Of The Girl

Today is a fabulous day, it is the first International Day Of the Girl!  October 11, 2012 is auspicious because it has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly to be the “International Day Of The Girl Child”.

For millions of girls all around the world who don’t get equal rights for whatever reasons, this is your day!  So many girls don’t get the right to an education, because other “priorities” such as marriage are forced upon them.  Education can open up the doors to a wider understanding of the world around us, and this is our right.  Celebrate the Day Of The Girl today, and hopefully one day girls everywhere will get the right to an education.

With an education, girls everywhere can become all they desire to be, they can be a scientist, judge, teacher, lawyer, doctor, and they can become leaders.  They can make it to the other side of the gates of the White House.

The White House, Washington, DC

I know that my children will get an education, and it won’t stop at just High School, as so many other girls’ educations do (if they are lucky enough to get that far).  I will give them the gift, and their right to go to college.

Oh, by the way…..this day is also for women who may have suffered the lack of education in the past due to circumstances such as those described or for any other reasons not mentioned.  Happy Day Of The Girl.

To find out more about Day Of The Girl, visit http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/