Norway anti-child marriage campaign continues / News / The Foreigner

Norway anti-child marriage campaign continues. Friday 10th October’s Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi recognized the rights of the child. The Norwegian Nobel Committee made their decision based on “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” A few streets down from the Nobel Peace Centre, Norway capital Oslo was supporting another important event which echoed much of the same theme.

nobelpeaceprize, children, forcedmarriage, oslo, un, plan, norway



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Norway anti-child marriage campaign continues

Published on Friday, 17th October, 2014 at 16:42 under the news category, by Linn Schjerven.
Last Updated on 17th October 2014 at 17:12.

Friday 10th October’s Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi recognized the rights of the child.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg
The Conservative Party's Prime Minister speaking at Plan Norway's Conference on the Rights of the Girl Child.Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg
Photo: ©2014 Linn Schjerven/The Foreigner


The Norwegian Nobel Committee made their decision based on “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

A few streets down from the Nobel Peace Centre, Norway capital Oslo was supporting another important event which echoed much of the same theme.

Plan Norway organized its sixth Annual Conference on the Rights of the Girl Child in cooperation with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).

Held at Oslo Concert Hall (Konserthuset), this year’s conference saw 11 different talks highlighting the problematic consequences of child marriage, as well as what is currently and further being done to create a world without child spouses.

“How are we going to stop child marriage?”

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg opened the conference, emphasizing the importance of quality education as a tool to improve the lives of affected children and their families.

Thea
Thea
©2014 Linn Schjerven/The Foreigner
“How are we going to stop child marriage, not only today but tomorrow, but also the next ten years? An important answer to this enormous challenge is education, especially for girls,” Ms. Solberg said to the audience.

“With a good education, children and teenagers can get the opportunity to help themselves out of poverty.”

14.2 million girls will marry under the age of 18 every year if the current levels of child marriages persist, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This equates to 39,000 girls being married off every day.

The consequences of marrying too young are numerous. A girl’s childhood is put to an end, drastically replaced by adult roles and responsibilities before she’s emotionally or physically mature enough.

This practice also creates socio-economic ramifications, putting a large number of a usable work force at greater risk of being uneducated, unemployed and unable to represent themselves as useful members of a community.

Real-life experience

For one of the speakers at the conference, this year’s topic was personal.

Shahida Akter Shorna, now 20, is an honors student, a tutor and child rights activist. She joined Plan Bangladesh when she was just 12 years old. She has also been an active member of a local Bangladeshi youth initiative called the Wedding Busters.

Shahida has helped to stop four weddings since joining the organization, including her own.

“I also stopped my own wedding. I got help from a teacher and Plan, and explained to my mother and father why they shouldn’t marry me off,” she said.

The Wedding Busters, supported by Plan, take direct action in communities in Bangladesh to stop child marriages, where 66% of girls marry before they are 18.

Shahida Akter Shorna
Shahida Akter Shorna
©2014 Linn Schjerven/The Foreigner
The group advocates for the rights of girls through educational programs, theater and door-to-door visits within the communities.

“When we hear about a planned child marriage, we contact the girl and listen to her story,” explained Shinigdha Roy Somapti, also a member of the Wedding Busters who was present at the conference.

“Then we visit her family and try to persuade them, and maybe we act out a play to show the consequences that can occur when the daughter is married off when she’s a child.”

Controversy

Plan Norway took the Wedding Busters’ methodology and scaled it up to a national level from September to October. The conference was used as an educational platform, attracting a diverse audience hailing from the educational, political and business sectors.

The organization staged a supporting event: Norway’s first official child marriage

It started of with a wedding blog penned by a 12-year-old Norwegian girl named Thea. She was to get married to Geir, a man 25 years her senior, on 11th October.

The blog sparked a lot of controversy within the Scandinavian country.

Initially believing the story to be true, many concerned readers contacted the police and child services. The site gained so much attention, initially attracting more than 500,000 readers, becoming Norway’s most read blog after just 12 hours.

Thea and Geir
Thea and Geir
©2014 Linn Schjerven/The Foreigner
The story was further picked up by several international medias such as the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, DesignTAXI and the BBC days before the actual ‘wedding’.

Affected many

The story about the union between Thea and Geir was shared on a wide scale. On the day of the wedding, the hashtag stoppbryllupet (#stopthewedding) spread like wildfire on social media.

According to Plan Norway, the outcry went out to over 3.5 million people via almost 8,000 personal Facebook and Twitter messages.

Even key Norwegian figures such as politicians, athletes and cultural profiles showed up at the church to stop the wedding. These included Socialist Left (SV) Party leader Audun Lysbakken and Knut Storberget, former Minister of Justice for Labour (Ap).

Deputy SV leader Inga Marte Thorkildsen, Anita Krohn Traaseth, a Norwegian business leader, and Norwegian actress Mari Maurstad were also among those who protested.

The union became a statement on behalf of a nation. Norway was now showing its intolerance towards child-marriage to the world.

“It is incredible to experience how the whole nation, and the world around us, has mobilized in the fight against child marriage,” said Olaf Thommessen, General Secretary of Plan Norway after the wedding.

“It is a signal that world leaders must take on, so that all good forces can unite in the fight against child marriage and for girls’ rights,” he added.

Plan Norway, a local branch of the global organization Plan, has expanded its efforts greatly over the years.

Exploiting attention

Plan Norge's Olaf Thommessen
Plan Norge's Olaf Thommessen
©2014 Linn Schjerven/The Foreigner
In a phone interview with The Foreigner, Mr. Thommessen explained that the first conference, held in 2009, only had 80 attendees. This year, the conference held talks for an audience of almost 300 people.

The organization has also gained 2,577 new sponsors in Norway alone since the blog was set up.

Plan Norway has no intention of taking down the blog anytime soon due to the public interest,  

When asked how the organization plans to keep up the momentum it has created thus far, Mr. Thommessen stated that they would continue their current efforts, working in 50 different countries and affecting more than 100 million people’s lives.

“The organization will come up with different measures to keep the attention of the Norwegian public [focused on this issue],” he said.

“We will exploit the attention we have gained by being better in the countries we work in. Secondly, public opinion is important and we will continue to find ways to engage people.”




Published on Friday, 17th October, 2014 at 16:42 under the news category, by Linn Schjerven.
Last updated on 17th October 2014 at 17:12.

This post has the following tags: nobelpeaceprize, children, forcedmarriage, oslo, un, plan, norway.





  
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