International Women’s Day: 100 Women 100 Dreams

International Women’s Day: 100 Women 100 Dreams

International Women’s Day: 100 Women 100 Dreams

International Women’s Day 2024

According the the United Nations, if current trends continue, more than 342 million women and girls could be living extreme poverty by 2030, a condition that leads to forced marriage for many girls worldwide. To ensure women’s needs and priorities are considered, governments must prioritize gender-responsive financing and increase public spending on essential services and social protection.

Policymakers must also value, recognize, and account for the vital contribution women make to economies worldwide through paid and unpaid care work. Women spend around three times more time on unpaid care work than men and if these activities were assigned a monetary value they would account for more than 40 per cent of GDP.

Investing in women and championing gender equality turbocharges a future where everyone in society can thrive, creating a world of boundless opportunity and empowerment for all.

The Global Campaign for the Prevention of Child Marriage (GCPCM) is an ongoing awareness raising campaign that aims to help stop child marriage through education and storytelling. As part of the campaign,100 women from around the world who married under the age of 18 were interviewed by local volunteers from their community. One of the founders of the campaign, Iranian community leader Shahin Gavanji, stated ‘Child marriage is a big problem in Iran, where I am from, as well as other parts of the world. The physical and sexual abuse of children through child marriage [has been] totally ignored. This needs to end.’ GCPCM aims to help change that through sharing the experiences of child marriage survivors.  

Zari: Afghanistan

Zari is a girl from Afghanistan who fell in love with a boy who lived near her house. But like most girls her age, she was given no say in who or when she married. This is Zari’s story.  

“I remember those days when I used to see the boy I loved, it was the sweetest time in my life. In our culture we couldn’t communicate openly and honestly with our parents about our relationship and I had to visit him secretly. It is a big challenge in our culture when your family doesn’t approve of your relationship. I remember the day when my mother found out about my boyfriend. She beat me with a stick very roughly and turned my life into hell. She called me a bad girl and said I had sinned. She also said ‘If your brothers and your father find out about your relationship they will cut off your head!’ Then my mother invited my aunt to our home and talked privately with her in the other room. They made a decision to find a husband for me. My mother came out from the room and said ‘You need to marry very soon or you should die.’ My mother didn’t allow me to leave the house at all for any reason. Then after 3 weeks had passed they told me I had to marry a man who was 38 years old. When I met this man for the first time it was a very dark moment. I was forced to marry him the first time I ever met him.”

“I was only 15 years old when they sent me to live at my husband’s house. I cried and ask my mother to stop this torture, I asked her to rescue me from this jail since I didn’t love this man. She said ‘Don’t worry you will love him with the passing of time’. My mother’s response felt like a jail sentence to me. When I was a child, I wanted to be a teacher and I liked to play and run but they spoiled all of my dreams. It is honest to say I don’t like my life now. Today one of my favorite things to do is to watch children playing. It evokes fond memories of my childhood when I was not married, free to be a child, like a white bird in the sky. No one who hasn’t experienced it can really imagine the disadvantages of a child marriage. The negative effects of child marriage on me are undeniable. Since being forced to marry I have had psychological problems. Every day I take various drugs to help me get through the day and again at night as I cannot sleep. I dream of a day that all parents understand that the right thing to do is to allow their children to study and follow their dreams. I think that the government should take decisive actions to end child marriage.  I want to say thank you for this project, I think your campaign (GCPCM) and your project is worthy of support. ” 

Ulima: Iraq

Ulima was a 9-year-old girl living in Iraq where she dreamed of becoming a manager in a big hotel. Instead she was forced to marry when still a child. Like so many, her marriage was a result of extreme poverty. She didn’t want to marry at 9 and become a child bride but her family made a decision about her future without her consultation or consent, forcing her to marry a 21 year-old man. This is Ulima’s story.  

“My life story is very sad. When I was a child I lost my parents and I had to go and live with my grandparents. As they were very old, they were frightened about my future and felt that I should get married soon to secure a safe future. My grandfather had worked as a carpenter but his advanced age ment that he couldn’t work anymore and had to stay at home so we were very poor. My uncle used to come and give him money for living expenses as we were living hand to mouth. Because of his age and the financial situation, my grandfather became a tool of my uncle’s and gave him a highly influential role in the decisions about my life. One day my uncle came to our house and said ‘Ulima should marry’, and he said he would find a good man for me. Due to his influence, my grandparents were irrational and didn’t listen to reason about the suggestion my Uncle made.”

“Two or three days later a family came to our house and 4 months later I had to get married. I married at 9 years old and starting on the 1st day of our marriage I experienced domestic abuse. My husband is not kind to me, he is very short tempered and began beating me regularly from our first day. Today I have three beautiful children and I live only for them, they are my whole future. I believe strongly that the most effective way to stop child marriage is to eliminate poverty. In addition, providing free education for parents about the negative effects of child marriage would be highly effective in helping end this practice. We also should not forget the role of government in each society. The government needs to devise and implement several financial and educational programs in order to help end child marriage.”         

According to Plan International, 12 million girls marry before the age of 18 each year. The reasons for this are complicated and range from gender inequalities and failure to enforce existing marriage laws to parents seeing marriage as a form of protection from violence for their daughters or a way to mitigate/alleviate grinding poverty. But contrary to ideas of protection, studies show that due to power imbalances, like Leilah’s marriage at 15 to a man the age of her grandfather, girls who marry young are more likely to experience violence, abuse and forced sexual relations.

Allowing girls to go to school gives them more choices and opportunities, providing tools for them to not only play an active role in their communities but help break the cycle of poverty. The United Nations views child marriage as a human rights violation, removing a girl’s agency to make decisions about her own life and often robbing her of a life free of violence due to spousal abuse and frequent pregnancy and childbirth, resulting in higher than average maternal morbidity and mortality rates. GPCMC aims to raise awareness and illuminate people’s minds about the issue of child marriage by sharing the stories of women who experienced this trauma from around the world. GPCMC believes sharing the lived experiences of these survivors will act as a powerful tool to empower girls globally and help prevent child marriage in future.

To learn more or help with this campaign follow GCPCH on twitter:


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