Thea is a 12 year old Norwegian girl with a bright future ahead of her. But instead of pursuing that future, Thea was going to be married off to 37 year old man Geir on Saturday, October 11th.
Thankfully, this wedding wasn’t actually real. But it mirrors many that are, and the stories of many underage girls around the world who are forced into these kinds of arranged marriages. According to The International Center for Research on Women, one third of the world’s girls are married before the age of 18, and 1-in-9 are married before the age of 15.
This has to stop.
That’s precisely the message anti-child marriage organization Plan International, specifically their Norwegian chapter Plan Norway, hopes to spread with this Thea campaign. They set up their website to look like Thea’s personal blog, filled with posts about wedding plans and fears about having sex with her new husband.
The goal was to convince fellow Norwegians to see the horrors of this child marriage, and step in to try and stop it before it happened. And it worked. Concerned Norwegians actually called the police. And on the day of the wedding, held on the UN’s International Day of the Girl Child, hundreds of people gathered to demonstrate at the church and cried out “Stop the wedding!” when the minister asked Thea whether she took Geir to be her husband.
Perhaps the most moving moment of the wedding was when 18 year old Shahida Akhter Shorna from Bangladesh stood up to speak on behalf of real child brides like she herself was almost forced into when she was 14. Shahida said,
Today I am proud to say I have helped four other child brides out of child marriages. Thea, don’t say yes. You’re still a child. Stop the wedding.
The campaign received massive success in traditional and social media, with support from well-known figures such as Ashton Kutcher, who encouraged his 18 million Facebook fans to stop the wedding. And since then, Plan International has garnered increasing attention for their global efforts to stop child marriage, by inspiring others to get involved, as well as offering sponsorships to girls in developing countries.
As Plan Norway National Director Olaf Thommessen explains,
During the course of this campaign we have given the world an insight into how brutal a child marriage is. We hope that this protest will help to open the eyes of the world community and show that we must join forces in the fight against child marriage and to secure girls’ rights.
So mad props to all the Tough Cookies at Plan Norway for a brilliant campaign that really brought this issue to greater global attention – perhaps most of all to Thea, whose real name is Maja Bergström, for bravely taking on that challenging role and representing real-life child brides all over the world.
Source: Huffington Post