Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – 11 October 2019

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child by drawing focus on the issue of child brides.

Also, the Australian Photography Awards (APA) finalists go on show tomorrow in an exhibition at Sun Studios, Melbourne where the winners will be announced. Check out the APA website for all the details.

Feature: 

International Day of the Girl Child

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Empowering young women, Rajasthan, India. Photo: UNICEF/2018/Soumi Das

In 1995 the rights of women and girls were recognised as human rights at the Beijing World Conference for Women. This gathering of over 30,000 women from 200 countries unanimously adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This was the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing the rights of not only women but girls.  

Since that time, global girls’ and women’s movements have worked to address issues including: stopping child marriage, the right to an education, equal pay, financial security and political participation. 

“Today, girls are moving from dreaming to achieving…As entrepreneurs, innovators and initiators of global movements, girls are leading and fostering a world that is relevant for them and future generations.” United Nations

But there is still more to do if we are going to achieve equality. Child brides, who are usually married to adult men, can be as young as six years old. These girls lose the right to be a child, to an education, to live the way they choose. Often child brides are violently abused. They bear children when they themselves are children, and infant and maternal mortality is high.

Poverty, a lack of education and cultural practices all contribute to the issue and it is  estimated that globally 12 million girls are married before reaching age 18.

Too Young To Wed

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“Whenever I saw him, I hid. I hated to see him,” Tehani (in pink) recalls of the early days of her marriage to Majed, when she was 6 and he was 25. The young wife posed for this portrait with her former classmate Ghana, also a child bride, outside their mountain home in Hajjah.” (C) Stephanie Sinclair

Stephanie Sinclair is a visual journalist dedicated to eradicating child marriage. Her long term project, which has evolved to become the non-profit Too Young To Wed (TYTW), is premised on the desire to see “a world where girls are free to simply be children and determine the course of their own lives.”

Sinclair’s emotively illustrated stories about child brides in countries such as Nigeria, Nepal and Guatemala have appeared in major media outlets like the New York Times, National Geographic, BBC and CNN, acknowledgement of both Sinclair’s reputation as a visual journalist, and the newsworthiness of the story.

Where this story began…

In 2002 Sinclair was in Herat, Afghanistan to cover a story about the self-immolation of young women and girls. She discovered a common link between these cases; most had been child brides.

For the next 15 years, Sinclair worked to document the lives of these girls with the aim to raise awareness and affect change.

She’s documented stories in Nepal, India, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan and also the United States, where child brides still exist in 2019. While there has been considerable headway in the fight to eradicate this heinous practice, there is still more work to be done.

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Faiz, 40, and Ghulam, 11, sit for a portrait in her home prior to their wedding in Afghanistan. Upset about the early marriages in their village, her relative exclaimed, “We are selling our daughters because we don’t have enough food to feed the rest of our children!” (C) Stephanie Sinclair
Child Marriage in Yemen - MM7772
“Nujoud Ali in Sana’a, Yemen. She was married to her husband, more than 20 years her senior when she was only eight years old. They are now divorced. Nujoud’s story sent shock waves around the country and caused parliament to consider a bill writing a minimum marriage age into law” (C) Stephanie Sinclair
Child Marriage in Afghanistan - MM7772
“Debritu, 14, escaped from her husband after months of abuse.” At the time this photo was taken she was seven months pregnant and homeless. (C) Stephanie Sinclair

More than stories and pictures

TYTW advocates for the rehabilitation of these young girls also. Many have fled their abusive marriages and sought aid from grassroots groups that TYTW helps fund. Sinclair has also instituted a series of photography workshops as therapy.

Importantly, there is a leadership scholarship program for young women. Education is freedom and key to changing cultural norms; by educating a generation, a whole society can move forward.

Child Brides also exist in the United States 

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As US professor  writes in The Conversation, “Opposition to child marriage in the United States also has a long history, dating back to the middle of the 19th century.” A history that continues in 2019.

150 years ago the argument against child marriage was the same as it is today; it is barbaric and has to stop. Child brides are robbed of their childhood, abused sexually, physically and emotionally, and denied an education. They often become mothers while they themselves are still children.

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“Veda Keate, 19, and her daughter, Sereena, 2, were among more than 400 church members taken into protective custody after a 2008 raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (C) Stephanie Sinclair

So on this International Day of the Girl Child think about contributing to the global discussion of the human rights of girls by sharing this post or making a donation to TYTW.  Remember, every two seconds somewhere in the world a girl is married against her will.

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