The beginnings of a ‘World Fit for Children’…
While there is still a long way to go, small steps are being made all over the world to honor ‘A World fit for Children’ goals as endorsed by the United Nations and UNICEF. One such goal is: to ‘End harmful traditional or customary practices, such as early and forced marriage…, which violate the rights of children and women’. The impact of ‘child marriages’ varies from country to country and also within each country depending on the parents of the child and the importance they place on the value of education.
For the last four years I have been studying traditional marriages for girls and women and their impact on attaining an education specifically looking at the Pacific Island nation of the Solomon Islands.
The time I have spent in the Solomon Islands has given me cause for reflections on the many connections and friendships that I have established with a very diverse range of people. The story of one such friend, whom I now consider part of my family, is particularly interesting in the sense that although we both share a Solomon Island heritage, her upbringing was very different to mine being brought up in Australia.
I had access to educational opportunities that most would take for granted: Music lessons, sports and private school I had it all. Haina had been denied the opportunity to receive an education by the constraints placed upon her by traditional Solomon Islands culture. I met Haina on my first visit to the Solomon Islands in 2006.
We both established an immediate rapport in spite of our differences in upbringing. Our conversations always involve laughter and jokes. She regularly teases me about being single and about finding a good Solomon Island boy for me to marry so that I can stay and live in the Solomon Islands with her. One day, Haina and I sat down together, and she began to tell me the story of how her wedding came about, which took place when she was a young teenager…..