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Our champions

Girls Not Brides has three champions: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mrs Graça Machel and Sonita Alizadeh. Girls Not Brides global champions are influential advocates who campaign around the world to end child marriage.

Champions have the ability to raise awareness of child marriage-related issues with the right people at key moments. This could be at the national, regional or international levels. They can open doors which would otherwise be shut; they can be a strong voice in the media; they can inspire our members and other civil society groups realising they are not alone in working to end the practice of child marriage.

There is no set rule as to how much time a champion should give to Girls Not Brides; it is up to them. What we promise to do is provide such materials as talking points and key messages, facts and figures to our champions so that they can raise the issue of child marriage during the course of their other activities.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

A veteran peace campaigner, Desmond Tutu is perhaps best known for his leadership in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. He was later elected Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town in 1986, the highest position in the Anglican Church in South Africa. In 1994, after the end of apartheid and the election of Nelson Mandela, Tutu was appointed Chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate apartheid-era crimes.

Tutu is a founding member of The Elders, a group of independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights created in 2007, and a co-founder of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.

As a Girls Not Brides champion, Archbishop Tutu continues his life-long mission of promoting peace and justice by advocating against child marriage, a practice that affects 15 million girls every year.

Mrs Graca Machel

Mrs Graca Machel

Graça Machel is one of the world’s leading advocates for women’s and children’s rights. Born in Mozambique, Machel fought for the country’s independence before becoming Mozambique’s first Education Minister.

Machel is a founding member of The Elders, and a co-founder of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage. As a member of the High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Mrs Machel advocated for the inclusion of child marriage as a target in the sustainable development agenda. The framework, adopted in September 2015, includes target 5.3 to “end child, early and forced marriage” by 2030.

Machel is the Board Chair of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, and Board Chair of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, and President of the Foundation for Community Development. As founder of the Graça Machel Trust, she has more recently focused on advocating for women’s economic and financial empowerment, education for all, an end to child marriage, food security and nutrition, and democracy and good governance.

Sonita Alizadeh

Sonita Alizadeh

With a poet’s soul and an activist’s passion, Sonita Alizadeh uses her rap lyrics and powerful voice to address child marriage. Sonita was born in Afghanistan but grew up a refugee in Iran where she faced forced marriage while still a child. In an effort to express her pain and share the experience of friends also being forced into marriage, she wrote “Daughters for Sale” and created a homemade music video. The song caught the world’s attention and has been viewed over half a million times.

Through the Strongheart Group, Sonita came to the United States where she is now a student at Wasatch Academy and international spokesperson for the rights of girls to choose their own destiny. Sonita was named one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s Global Thinkers of 2015, one of BBC’s 100 Women of 2015, and has been featured by CNN, NPR, BBC, Buzzfeed News, and over 200 publications in 20 countries.

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