Unlocking the Greatness
“This pencil is important to me because it will help me erase my illiteracy".
One of the most common topics of discussions in The Women's Group (TWG) is early marriage. There are a number of socio-economic and cultural reasons for early marriage in Palestine. One of the affects of the occupation is the dire economic climate in Nablus, where the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates the total unemployment to be 60 percent, and as high as 80 percent in refugee camps. This makes girls with no education and little prospect of a job a financial burden in many families, thus making early marriage increasingly alluring for families straining to deal with poverty. Consequently, the larger the family, the more likely early marriages are to occur. In many cases, the tradition for early marriages lies in the cultural factor of family honor. Girls are considered the measure of a family’s honor, and social status is gauged by maintaining a girl’s honor. The most common way families seek to ensure that is by marrying off daughters early because they believe the longer she remains unmarried, the higher the likelihood that she be stripped of her honor.
Early marriage often takes place during adolescence. Adolescence is one of the most formative stages of a person’s development during which personality, individual identity and confidence is formed. Furthermore, many times early marriage means forcing a girl to abandon her studies as well. Depriving girls of their right to education contributes to the general low level of education in Palestinian society, and often creates an intellectual gap between husband and wife and mother and children, resulting in low self-esteem and depression.
TWG is seeking to fill the space in the lives of women who were victim to the practice of early marriage by providing classes in IT and English. The response to these classes has been so overwhelmingly positive. When participating in a introductory activity with the Children's Defense Society on Tuesday, attendees were asked to present an item that is important to them. One of the participants who is a student in the Beginners English class and was married young held out a pencil and said, "this pencil is important to me because it will help me erase my illiteracy".
TYO gears its programming strategically toward helping women realize their confidence and ability to control their own lives. Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize winner, shares her sentiments on the importance of unlocking the greatness of girls and women in the video below as well. Watch her TED Talk and reflect on how you can help make empowering strides for yourself, girls and women close to you, and all around the world. We've got the power!
-Samin Samin is the Program Coordinator for Women’s Empowerment Programs.