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Sponsorship affords children an opportunity to pursue their dreams, not marriage

A new World Vision report details how forced early marriage prevents girls from achieving their full God-given potential. But child sponsorship is making a difference.

September 2008

Mayuri, 14, smiles while holding her school bag. The broad grin on her face says it all: As a child sponsored through World Vision, she is able to stay in school, pursue her dreams, and avoid early marriage.
Mayuri, 14, smiles while holding her school bag. The broad grin on her face says it all: As a child sponsored through World Vision, she is able to stay in school, pursue her dreams, and avoid early marriage.
Photo ©2008 Kit Shangpliang/World Vision
While most girls in North America are starting a new school year this month, millions of their peers across the developing world are forced to stay home because they are child brides.

Early marriage is expected to rob the futures of some 100 million girls in the next decade. Most of them will be deprived of the chance to finish school; many also will suffer greater risk of contracting HIV and sustaining debilitating injuries, or death, from early childbearing.

Intensified by the growing global food crisis, this dangerous practice is spreading, leaving much at stake.

"Multiple studies have taught us that there is no more effective tool for development, or better investment for impoverished countries, than to educate girl children," says Ruthi Hoffman Hanchett, an education policy officer with World Vision's international office. "But we find that with so many girls forced to leave school at early ages, a cycle of poverty and illiteracy continues to trap their families and communities."

Mayuri's plan


Your love and support for a girl in India will help her stay in school and stay away from early marriage.

World Vision's child sponsorship program in the Gosavasti slum of Pune, India, is a good example of how the practice of early marriage can be stopped.

Mayuri, 14, looks like any other girl in Gosavasti, but this sponsored youth's smile and her confidence clearly indicate she is being given every opportunity to experience life in its fullness.

"I want to be police officer," she says, holding her father to his promise that he will support her. "Until I complete my studies, I will never get married."

Those are bold words, but Mayuri is beating some steep odds. Early child marriage is traditionally a common practice in Pune's slums and across South Asia.

New report

In India, nearly 31 percent of girls are married by age 15. "Girls at a young age do not have to pay such a high-priced dowry. So the girl's family saves money if they marry off their daughters early," explains Subhash Jherombed, a World Vision staff member in India. (A "dowry" is the money, goods, or estate a woman brings to her husband in marriage; it remains a common practice in India.)

According to a new World Vision briefing paper, "Before she's ready: Fifteen places girls marry by 15" (pdf), forced early marriage is rooted in families and communities where "the starkest poverty mixes with cultural traditions and lack of education to limit a girl's perceived value…"

The report also highlights how innovative programs, offered in many World Vision sponsorship communities, are tackling the underlying needs that fuel the dangerous practice of early marriage.

Changes in Pune


To help increase school enrollment in Pune's communities, World Vision staff initially offered incentives, such as new school bags and bicycles. They also set up libraries so students could check out textbooks.

Additionally, hundreds of meetings were conducted throughout Pune's sponsorship project areas to sensitize parents on issues such as proper childcare and holistic education.

World Vision staff also worked hard to strengthen the earning capacity of parents through self-help groups, such as the one to which Mayuri's mother belongs. Income-generation programs have further reduced the stark poverty in these communities.

Attitude adjustment

Mayuri and her mother proudly display a colorful card received from Mayuri's sponsor.
Mayuri and her mother proudly display a colorful card received from Mayuri's sponsor.
©2008 Kit Shangpliang/World Vision

Years of hard work are reaping positive returns: Many parents in Pune's Gosavasti slum do not believe in early marriage anymore.

Because of World Vision's income-generation projects, a number of residents have increased their economic status.

Four years ago, Mayuri's family shared a one-room shack. Today, the family lives in a secure, three-room home. The teenager's father has a better job that enables him to meet his family's needs, alleviating the heavy financial pressure to marry off his adolescent daughter.

And, according to Mayuri's aunt, Aruna: "Those awareness programs and parents' meeting we attended have opened up our minds."

The teenager's mother sums it up: "One can write a book on the works of World Vision in my slum and how it has helped my family."

Learn more


>> View the full text of World Vision's new briefing paper, "Before she's ready: Fifteen places girls marry by 15" (pdf).
>> Read an article containing stories of how the global food crisis is affecting children and families worldwide, including the story of one girl whose parents were forced to sell her into marriage so they could buy food.

Three ways you can help

>> In your prayers, give thanks for Mayuri, and the thousands of girls like her, who are enrolled in programs like World Vision child sponsorship, which give them the opportunity to experience life in its fullness. Pray for the ongoing success of such programs and for more girls to benefit from them.
>> Sponsor a girl in India. Your love and support will enable her to stay in school, avoid early marriage, and grow up to be a healthy and productive adult.
>> Donate now to World Vision's Girls and Women Education Fund. Your gift will help provide opportunities that enable girls to stay in school, avoid early marriage, and experience life in all its fullness.

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