When Mandela Asks…

by Chrysula on September 23, 2011 in empowering women and girls,social good


Have you ever been with Mandela and he asked you to do something?”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu on forming The Elders council.

Mandela asked me to do something once too, along with 1,000 others crammed into St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia where he was honored at an ecumenical service. He called us to action, to forgive, to heal, and to act. That was 22 years ago. Forgiveness, healing and action, from a man who’d been in prison for 25 years is a profound concept. I had spent a year in South Africa a few years prior. Nelson Mandela was still in prison when I lived there. South Africa was in the final stages of apartheid. Seems unimaginable now.

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and Archbishop Desmond Tutu launched the Elders program to end child marriage and let girls be Girls, Not Brides. The future success of nearly every global development program depends on healthy, educated girls. When you’re married off at 12 or 15 and delivering one child after another in your teens, school goes out the window, your chances of dying in childbirth increase exponentially and a life of poverty is almost inescapable.

What was humbling was the calm, spiritual energy of these two global elders. I fell in love with both of their hearts years ago, but to see them steaming ahead with a schedule that would break most of us at half their ages (especially Tutu). Make 30 mins in your day to watch this session. And find out what your call to action will be.

Watch live streaming video from mashable at livestream.com

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Photo credit: With permission United Nations Foundation


Anne Baker September 23, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Thanks for sharing Chrysula I read an article the other week about one of the girls in the video. She is the one standing in her bedroom on her own. Looking like a typical teenager. I believe it was in a National Geographic Mag. She being a teenager, had parents that were arranging a marriage for her. She threatend to inform the police and her parents discontinued. It wasn’t the fact that she would be leaving her home, parents or friends. She stated that it meant the finish of her schooling and that she would never give that up. Education is so important. It empowers, it provides self worth, ultimately it provides an anvenue for a generation to contribute to society/community. My sister did her Thesis ( Masters in Demography) on teenage pregnancy and its effect on education and quality of life on the teenage mother. She had personally witnessed friends that were more naturally intelligent than herself but had to give up education due to teenage pregnancy and witness the harsh effects on the teenager as an adult but also studied the effects on the immediate communty. The result – community weakens, so the opposite can occur when women are educated. I also learned that there are children marrying children in some of the cultures – or being engaged at 3-5 years of age then being forced to be married as teenagers. I hope we don’t forget the boys that are also hurt/affected by all of this too. As mothers we are their voices too. The article clearly indicated that there are very few support groups for teenage boys that are affected by this. One such boy was forced to be married while still a teenager but it only lasted a few months. Consequences that he alone experienced were low self esteem, depression, erratic violence, dropping out of school (there’s the education thingy again), drug abuse, acholizim, homelessness and living with a Honor Killing threat. This is not only occuring in eastern nations, but as we have become smaller globally and cities having mulitple eastern cultures, we are experiencing children that are English and American Citizens that grow up in such active cultures experiencing teenage marriages, right in our communities. There should be zero tolerance of this kind of abuse occuring in any nation. I will find out the title of my sisters thesis, its interesting reading and was recognized by the New Zealand Gov’t and won an award.

Chrysula September 24, 2011 at 1:00 am

Anne, this is critical stuff. I am so grateful you brought the impact on boys into this. They are enormously impacted also. I believe that the movement to save girls from child marriage is not in any way meant to neglect boys, but rather to get to the core of the where the issue starts. If parents are less willing to marry their daughters off so young, the boys will have the benefit of that knock on effect.

You are so right to also point out this is not just a developing world issue. It’s a whole world issue.

Anne Baker September 24, 2011 at 12:15 am

I was fishing around in my old archives and wanted to reference this article in my previous comment but could not recall exactly when it was written and by whom.
Early marriage survives in the U.S.
Paul Salopek
Chicago Tribune
Dec. 29, 2004
This article is about teenage marriages in the US but these are not necessarily arranged, infact this one particular case is out of love, but a desperate move to be married is made due to laws and circumstances. For this string of comments I am quoting the last two paragraphs as the reporter asks what the young bride what she wants to do
“I want to go back to school,” Liset says hopefully, echoing a universal desire that social workers hear from child wives around the world. “Maybe then I can become a cosmetologist, or maybe an interior designer.”

She hopes to re-enroll in the 9th grade this spring, after giving birth to a new baby.

Education is yearned.

Chrysula September 24, 2011 at 1:01 am

Definitely looking this one up. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and passion on this topic.

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