By Themrise Khan in New York
(HN, September 20, 2011) - Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chair of the Elders was one of the driving forces behind the official launch of the Girls Not Brides campaign, here at the Clinton Global Initiative today.
Supported by the Ford Foundation and the Novo Foundation, among others, the multi-funded collaboration with the Elders Group, seeks to end the centuries old practice of child marriages, affecting almost 3 million young girls around the developing world.
The initiative is committing a start-up of $2 million to partner with almost 150 organizations already involved with the cause and demanding that this practice be ended.
Tutu, along with Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, are lobbying donors, NGOs and cultural and faith-based groups to come together to do more to raise awareness on issues that include lobbying to increase the legal age of marriage to 18 years, so that young girls have the opportunity to attend and complete school.
As passionate and engaging as ever, Tutu urged the audience to look beyond the statistics and put a human face to turn the numbers into flesh and blood, to be able to understand why this ghastly system has to be ended. His appeal was to the men of this world who have to be the ones to change this tradition by saying that they do not want to marry children. “If the men aren’t on the right side, we are in trouble”, he said.
Following on the success of the Burhani Huwan initiative in Ethiopia which assisted in allowing 11,000 girls to complete their schooling and delay child marriage, this global partnership aims to allow young girls the opportunity to be educated and economically independent.
However, the causes contributing to child marriages go beyond just tradition and cross into economic depravation and poverty which forces parents to take such actions.
With multiple challenges facing this commitment, Tutu is one of the key strengths of the initiative declaring that “I am committed to this like I was committed to ending apartheid”.