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International Day of the Girl: For Women, Marriage Should Always Be a Choice

Everyone seemed to have an opinion about my engagement. I was only twenty, not even old enough to drink legally, when my college boyfriend proposed. Concerned professors advised me not to “throw away a promising career” for marriage. Sorority sisters asked if I was “really ready” to be with just one man for the rest of my life.

I married two weeks before my 22nd birthday despite many jokes that I was a “child bride.” My husband was a newly-commissioned Lieutenant in the Air Force. I will confess that the base housing for married couples and affordable healthcare for spouses were incentives to marry rather than extend our engagement for several years. I had completed my Masters Degree and just accepted a dream job at an internet start-up in Boston. Practically speaking, marriage made sense at the time, and I was sure that this was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

We have been married for twelve years and now are proud parents to two wonderful boys. Life can get crazy and complicated, but I am happy. And the choice to marry was mine alone.

I strongly believe women should decide if and when they want to marry, but sadly, the same sentiment is not shared around the world. My friends teased me for being a “child bride,” but real child marriage is not a laughing matter.

Child marriage is still a pervasive problem, particularly in developing countries. The first-ever International Day of the Girl is being held today October 11th to bring attention to the opportunities so many girls are denied, and the abuse they often suffer.

Some statistics from The International Day of the Girl website that struck me in particular, I would like to share with you:

  •  25,000 girls become child brides every day.
  • 1 in 9 girls, or 15 million, have been forced into marriage between the ages of 10-14.
  • Child brides are treated as PROPERTY- they are bought, sold and thrown away at the whims of their husbands.
  • Child brides are two times as likely to be beaten by their husbands.
  • Girls who complete secondary school are 6 times less likely to become child brides.

Reading and watching these girls’ stories is eye-opening. It’s hard for us here in the United States to imagine what their lives are like, but we can help make a difference. Will you take just a few minutes to help today?

Post a status update on Facebook to show your support:

  • Have you ever imagined your perfect wedding? For many children, marriage is already a reality – and there was no dream wedding. Join CARE in the global movement to end child marriage today: http://bit.ly/NzXXhW
  • Take a stand for the 1 in 3 girls in the developing world who are forced into child marriage every day. Tell Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to end child marriage now: http://bit.ly/QX5yHn

Raise awareness in just 140 characters by tweeting one of the following messages:

  • I’m joining @CARE in the global movement to #endchildmarriage. Here’s how you can get involved: http://bit.ly/THiQu7
  • Every 3 seconds, a girl younger than 18 is married somewhere in the world. Join @CARE & me – let’s #unite4girls: http://bit.ly/THiQu7

My story had a happy ending because the decision to marry was mine to make. Doesn’t every girl deserve the same freedom to choose when or if to marry?

Read more of Debbie’s writing at Mamanista.com and Bloganthropy.org. Don’t miss a post! Follow Debbie on Twitter and Facebook.

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