Girls Not Brides champion Sonita knows first-hand the pressures families seeking refuge from humanitarian crises face. Sonita spent several years in Iran after fleeing conflict and violence in war-torn Afghanistan.
When Sonita was 16, her parents tried to marry her off. They thought that marriage would provide stability and support for her. They also thought it would lessen the financial strain they were under.
Sonita boldly refused to be married and used rap music to express her thoughts. With support she was able to go back to school. She now studies in the United States thanks to the help of Strongheart. Many refugee girls around the world aren’t as fortunate.
In countries facing humanitarian crises around the world – such as Syria, Yemen, the Central African Republic or Myanmar - child marriage is on the rise.
“Emergencies and humanitarian crises make all the factors that drive child marriage: poverty, insecurity, lack of access to education”
To help stop this trend, Sonita says we must listen to adolescent girls themselves and design programmes that support them and their families.
We must “take the issue of child marriage seriously because it hurts girls, boys and families, and it violates their basic rights.”
9 out of the 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are considered fragile states. Find out why child marriage increases in humanitarian contexts.
Sonita’s message will be heard in Geneva, Switzerland, at a panel discussion on child marriage in humanitarian settings. The event takes place ahead of the 35th session of the Human Rights Council (6-23 June), which will consider a resolution on child, early and forced marriage.
In the time it has taken to read this article 16 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds