My Auntie J lost her sons recently. I don’t mean lost as in she misplaced them – that would have been simply careless, they are in their 20’s after all. But they left home, you see, went off to start their independent lives. Incidentally, I’m kind of hoping that means they might get married, because I’ve never been a bridesmaid…

But anyway, I digress. Auntie J has always been a carer: a great mum to her boys, our favourite relative to visit, and a nurse. When she became an ’empty-nester’ she had a hankering to do something different with her time, to really care for people who needed her, and so she began a project that would ultimately see her as a theatre nurse on board the Mercy Ships in West Africa.

Mercy shipsSince 1978, the Mercy Ships fleet and land teams have served in more than 50 developing countries throughout Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, and the Asia Pacific region. Medical volunteers perform operations to address deformities, blindness, dental issues, and obstetric fistula.

Why would I tell you about this? Well coincidentally today is the very first International Day of the Girl, which is a UN initiative trying to put an end to child marriage. Every day 3,500 girls under the age of 15 are married, given by their families to men they don’t know, who are often older and already have children. They are expected to become a wife in every definition, and bear children. Some of these girls are only 10. If I was part of one of these families I could be married, and a mother in 2 years time. Do you think I’d be ready?

Well, my Auntie J would tell you that I wouldn’t. Irrespective of my emotional capacity to handle it, I would not be physically equipped to bear a child so young. I would probably give birth alone; it would be a long and difficult labour; there would be no medical professionals to help me; I could even die, or lose my baby; I would almost certainly suffer tears and injuries; I would most likely suffer obstetric fistula, which would leave me incontinent. Constantly leaking urine and bowel movements, I would disgust my husband, and he would no longer want me. My family would be shamed. I would have no-where to go. I might still be 10 years old…

Mercy Ships operate on thousands of girls like this every year, giving them back dignity, self-esteem, and a life they can live productively once more. They are repairing the damage caused by child marriage. World Vision is asking for child marriage to stop. Both organisations need your help, and your voice.

How you can help:

  1. Sponsor a girl so that her community can be educated, and be empowered to take a stand against child marriage.
  2. If you are a blogger, write your own post and link up to International Day of the Girl to publicise the initiative.
  3. Support Mercy Ships – they are of course always looking for financial support to continue their excellent work. However, what they need more than anything is nurses to work on the ships. They physically cannot keep up with the volume of people, including young girls, who turn up needing their help. So in addition to raising awareness of child marriage, I urge you to consider sharing this post with anyone you know who has the skills to assist in routine operations. They may be routine, but they quite simply save lives…

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