Youth come together on International Women’s Day to end child marriage

Credit: Graham Crouch/Girls Not Brides.

On International Women’s Day, young people in Indonesia have come together to call for gender equality and an end to child marriage, in a country where 275 girls marry every day.

The event, which was organised by the Indonesian Adolescent Girls Network (AKSI), Girls Not Brides, the Embassy of Netherlands and UNICEF, raised awareness about the importance of empowering adolescents to speak out about child marriage.

Mabel van Oranje, chair of Girls Not Brides, spoke at the opening of the event which attracted widespread interest. “It is wonderful to spend International Women’s Day in Indonesia with young people –  the future” she said.

“Each and every one of you can make change. When you work together with other change makers you can do even more than you can do alone.”

Youth activists and Mabel talk about child marriage, in front of a screen.

Mabel van Oranje answers questions from youth activists in Jakarta. Credit: Graham Crouch/Girls Not Brides.

Mabel shared stories of what other young adolescents have been able to do, working to end child marriage in other countries around the world. She also shared her top tips for being a change maker, including:

“Never forget: what people might call impossible, is often completely possible. A world without child marriage will be a world where everyone – boys and girls – will be better educated, healthier, wealthier and more equal.”

Schoolgirls in Indonesia laughing.

Credit: Asian Development Bank.

The country’s growing youth population has the power to steer the future of Indonesia in a new direction. Young people aged 10-24 make up over a quarter of Indonesia’s population, and 48 million of them are aged 10-19. Addressing child marriage will be one of the keys to unlocking their potential.

Movements to end child marriage are building in Indonesia. For example, the youth-powered movement Koalisi 18+ has called for a minimum marriage age of 18 and created national dialogue around child marriage and related issues. In June 2017, Indonesia hosted a conference of Muslim women religious scholars that attracted hundreds of participants from across the country as well as from countries including Saudi Arabia, Kenya, and Pakistan.

A recent U-report poll found that young people feel they have an important role to play in preventing child marriage. They were keen for government to invest in educating young people and raising parents’ knowledge of sexual and reproductive health issues. Some actions they thought they could take included encouraging awareness among the general public and other youth.

Cartoon

A cartoonist captures young people’s ideas at the youth event for how to end child marriage.Credit: Graham Crouch/Girls Not Brides.

The event provided the adolescents who came from Greater Jakarta and West Java with a platform to develop messages and communication materials on child marriage.

These recommendations and key messages were presented to high-level officials who attended, as well as being shared widely on and offline with key other stakeholders – communities, peers, local government, teachers and religious leaders – to help influence their attitudes towards child marriage.

Three youth activists walk, smiling and laughing.

Suci, Ria and Holida, youth activists from the Yes I Do programme, delivered by an alliance of Girls Not Brides members, have mounted a campaign against child marriage in their village in Lombok. Now they are planning a film to take their message to villages across Indonesia. Credit: Graham Crouch/Girls Not Brides.

Indonesia ranks among the top ten countries with the most child brides in the world.  Around one in every seven girls in Indonesia is married before the age of 18, amounting to more than 1.4 million women aged 20-24 in Indonesia alive today who were married as children.