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The boy who helps rescue child brides
In its latest annual report examining the rights of girls around the world, Plan emphasises that men and boys have a crucial role in helping to build gender equality. Here, 18-year-old Youssef tells the story of his work to help rescue girls from forced and early marriage.
Youssef is an 18-year-old student who lives in a rural town on the outskirts of Giza, the third largest city in Egypt.
Youssef, who lives his mother and his 15-year-old sister is part of a youth group that helps to rescue girls from forced marriages.
Girls marrying underage is a regular occurrence in Youssef’s community. Here Youssef talks about his personal battle against child marriage.
« I live in a rural town near Giza. Around here girls getting married young is commonplace. Some girls become child brides before they turn 16.
« A few years ago I was in school with a girl called Jasmeen. She was forced to marry her cousin when she was 14.
« She had no idea her family were planning this. When she was 13 she was pressured to get engaged against her will.
« Jasmeen’s father died when she was quite young. Her uncle – who is father of the groom – became the head of her family.
« When she got married when she had to drop out of school and there was little she could do about it. Her uncle arranged the whole thing.
« At the time I remember feeling that I wanted to do something to help Jasmeen.
I have a 15-year-old sister and I dread to think of her being made to marry against her will and going through a similar ordeal.
This is why I am part of a youth club that campaigns against child marriage
« My friends wanted to help as well. But her husband isolated her and made it difficult for us to keep in contact with her.
« The last I heard she was pregnant. There was another girl called Zainab*. Her parents forced her to get married at 14.
« She dropped out of school and got pregnant soon after. But the pregnancy was traumatic and she suffered the first of two miscarriages.
« I have been told she still suffers from health problems because of what happened to her.
« My friends and I persuaded Zainab’s husband to allow her to return to school. She is 18 now and back in full time education.
« Jasmeen’s and Zainab’s situation had a profound affect on me. Both girls were child brides and went through a lot at such a young age.
« I have a 15-year-old sister and I dread to think of her being made to marry against her will and going through a similar ordeal.
« This is why I am part of a youth club that campaigns against child marriage.
« We have had some opposition from some sections of the local community, particularly from individuals who make a lot of money from these marriages.
« But we have also had backing from a local Sheikh and a group of lawyers who have joined forces with our club.
So that gives me hope.
« We came to the rescue of a 16-year-old girl who was under pressure to marry a cousin who was in his twenties.
« Her name was Shazia* and her father was planning to take her out of school. Some of my friends and I got together and were able to talk to Shazia’s family and persuade them to postpone the marriage.
« Now Shazia is a member of our group and helps us our activities.
« In recent months there has been so much change in Egypt. I hope to see a change in people’s views on child marriage, because it’s wrong for a girl or boy to be forced to marry ».
« I really believe that we can make difference on this issue. I know it won’t be easy and there is a long way to go. »
* The names of the child brides mentioned in this story have been changed.
This blog was originally posted by Plan UK.
Find out more about Plan International’s latest report ‘Because I am a Girl: So, what about boys?’