Girls Not Brides awarded Geuzen Medal for human rights

Photo credit: Jane Mingay/Girls Not Brides

Girls Not Brides is today honoured to receive the Geuzen Medal 2018. Awarded to groups or individuals working for human rights and fighting against discrimination, dictatorship, and racism, the Medal is in recognition of the work Girls Not Brides members are doing all over the world to end child marriage.

Speaking at the awards ceremony in the Netherlands, Board Chair, Mabel van Oranje said, “It is a tremendous honour and pleasure to be here with you today, and to receive the Geuzen Medal 2018 on behalf of Girls Not Brides. Thank you. It is a wonderful recognition of the importance and the impact of our work.”

Girls Not Brides Executive Director, Lakshmi Sundaram, Board Chair, Mabel van Oranje, and Ghanaian member Kawusada Abubakari received the award on behalf of the global partnership to end child marriage.

Child marriage affects 12 million girls every year, from cultures, religions and communities across the world. As a vibrant, civil society partnership, Girls Not Brides with more than 900 member organisations in over 95 countries plays an important role in helping to drive forward the movement to end child marriage.

Members like NORSAAC in Northern Ghana, where 2 in every 5 girls marries before the age of 18, are crucial to the movement.

“I have seen brilliant girls whose education has been cut off due to child marriage” says Kawusada Abubakari, Gender and Governance at NORSAAC and National Coordinator of Girls Not Brides Ghana who was also at the ceremony. “I have also spoken with elderly women who lament the better lives they could have had if they were not trapped by early marriages.”

NORSAAC runs innovative community programmes in northern Ghana to prevent child marriage and keep girls in school.

Girls Not Brides Ghana is one of nine Girls Not Brides National Partnerships. It was set up in 2014 and currently has over 60 members across the country working together to end child marriage.

“We address child marriage in a variety of different ways, said Kawusada. “From speaking with girls, their parents and local communities, through to raising awareness amongst the general public and working in partnership with the government.”

“However, there is still much to be done until every girl is safe from child marriage.”

Lakshmi Sundaram, Executive Director, Girls Not Brides continued:

“We’re not going to end child marriage without a vibrant global movement, with civil society firmly at the centre.”

“Our members and partners are passionate about ending child marriage because it is at the heart of many of the development challenges we want to overcome in the world – and a barrier to progress. Child marriage traps girls, their families and societies in a cycle of poverty. It limits millions of girls from fulfilling their potential and leading happy, safe and productive lives.”

She added, “for the last six years, Girls Not Brides has been analysing the research, speaking to experts, and working with communities to figure out what will end child marriage. Together we have identified a Theory of Change. To end child marriage, girls need to be empowered; families and communities mobilised to create a change at a local level; governments needs to provide services such as health, education and child protection, and strong laws and policies need to be developed and implemented.”

“But if we do not act quickly, 150 million girls will become child brides by 2030.”

Mabel van Oranje concluded, “Ending child marriage won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. But we now know what works to end it, and we are seeing concrete change happen around the world. Patience and determination will ultimately lead us to a world without child marriage. That will be a world where everybody is better educated, healthier, more prosperous, and more equal.”

Attending the awards ceremony were Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, various high ranking officials, families and friends of members of the Dutch resistance, and representatives of Girls Not Brides Netherlands.