To mark the launch of #MyLifeAt15, a new Girls Not Brides campaign calling on governments to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target to end child marriage by 2030, Girls Not Brides interviewed their members and other activists about their life at 15 and how they can help make the new target a reality.
Among them was our very own Petrider, a member of Youth For Change Tanzania, President of the Youth of United Nations Association Tanzania, UNFPA volunteer and intern at the Children’s Dignity Forum Tanzania.
This blog was originally published for Girls Not Brides.
My name is Petrider (@PetriderPaul). I am from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. I am 21 years old. I am an advocate for girls’ rights.
I became an activist in secondary school, when I was 15. I was involved in girls’ clubs – a school club organisation that deals with rights issues, including girls’ rights. I started engaging with girls that were more senior than me. For the first time, I felt confident doing what I really like. I could change and impact other young girls in a positive way. It didn’t cost much either; it was a matter of advocating using social media, reaching out to other young people. I felt I could do it. And I did!
I became an activist because I saw that girls did not have the same choices and opportunities as boys. Especially when it comes to marriage, there is this idea that a girl’s opinion does not need to be taken into consideration.
They say that you are young, that the elders can make the decisions for you. If you disagree, you’re seen as stubborn. You’re not fulfilling their expectations of the quiet African girl. Many times I wanted to speak where I was told “You’re just a girl! What can you do?” I wanted to change that impression.
In Tanzania, child marriage is connected to female genital mutilation [FGM], a custom that girls are seen as needing to go through to be ready for marriage and become women, especially in rural communities.
Child marriage is also linked to economics. A young girl may be married off for a bride price, which can be a lot of money, goods or cattle, like a cow. Parents see marriage and their daughters as a source of income.
Ending child marriage is important to me because I want to encourage girls to claim their own rights, and I want to lead the way by setting an example for other girls.
Ending child marriage is also important for our communities because we need to promote space where girls can develop to their full potential and stop being devalued.
And of course, ending child marriage is important for Tanzania because we want to be viewed as a country that promotes human rights but child marriage keeps girls from being equal to boys.
We are the ‘now generation’ – the young people of today are going to lead the implementation of the SDGs and they will feel its impact.
We can turn the SDGs into reality. We are passionate and we can influence others in our communities, including our fellow young people. We can make noise to show the government that we are committed, that we care. With technology and social media, we can reach so many people.
But even young people with no access to technology can mobilise. They can support from district leaders, from their teachers. They can reach out to youth networks.
My message to young people is this: don’t sit back and let change happen. Change happens with you. Everything is possible if you decide to do it.
We are pushing the Tanzanian government to change the legal age of marriage and raise it to 18 years old to both boys and girls.
Right now, girls can marry at 14 with the consent of their parents. It is hard for citizens to say that we want to end child marriage when the government hasn’t even made changes that would make the practice illegal. That’s one action that can do a lot.
.It is possible to end gender inequality by 2030. And young people will be the ones doing it. Together, we can make it history!
Find out more about Youth For Change's involvement in the #MyLifeAt15 campaign.
Find out more about Girls Not Brides, the global coalition to end child marriage.