LifeStraw1million Campaign Kenya

International Day of the Girl: A Skilled GirlForce

Today, October 11, is the International Day of the Girl, a day declared by the United Nations in 2011 to raise awareness about all issues concerning gender inequality around the world.  It’s a day when activist groups come together under the same goal to highlight, discuss, and take action to advance rights and opportunities for girls everywhere. Fast forward to today and the International Day of the Girl has become a global movement of hope, inspiration and advocacy to better the lives of half our planet who is being left behind.

Each year the United Nations selects a theme. The theme for 2018 is “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce”. Per the UN:

Today’s generation of girls are preparing to enter a world of work that is being transformed by innovation and automation. Educated and skilled workers are in great demand, but roughly a quarter of young people – most of them female – are currently neither employed or in education or training.

Of the 1 billion young people – including 600 million adolescent girls – that will enter the workforce in the next decade, more than 90% of those living in developing countries will work in the informal sector, where low or no pay, abuse and exploitation are common.

On 11 October, International Day of the Girl, we are working alongside all girls to expand existing learning opportunities, chart new pathways and calling on the global community to rethink how to prepare them for a successful transition into the world of work.

Under the theme, With Her: A Skilled GirlForce, International Day of the Girl will mark the beginning of a year-long effort to bring together partners and stakeholders to advocate for, and draw attention and investments to, the most pressing needs and opportunities for girls to attain skills for employability.

Source: www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/

Preparing a new generation of skilled female workers will be an enormous undertaking to say the least. There are tremendous challenges that girls living in poverty and crisis face in the areas of education, health, safety and violence, discrimination and lack of opportunity. These obstacles hold girls back and harm us all. When we don’t utilize half of our population, we are all missing out. Girls hold an enormous source of energy, power and creativity in their voices and passion to make their lives and communities better.

A girl with an education is a supergirl — she can change her future and her community. She can even change the world. -UNICEF

While I was in Kenya last February with LifeStraw, I witnessed firsthand the resilient perseverance of girls when it comes to getting an education and improving their lives. Some of these girls walked hours and worked all day and night just to receive an education knowing very well what it could do for their future and their family.

These girls were as curious about me as I was about them. As I left the group assembly to check out the school they shyly followed me and asked my name and questions about America. I asked if I could interview them to learn about their dreams for the future. Here is what they had to say. 

Yet, more than 130 million girls are out of school around the world today.  Think about that loss of potential for these girls and society as a whole. It has been proven that keeping girls in school will have a ripple effect throughout their community by delaying an early marriage, childbirth and allowing girls to enter the workforce to escape poverty.

Photos of me with the kids in Kenya during the LifeStraw Follow the Liters Campaign. 

Girl Up, an advocacy group run by and for girls, supports United Nations programs promoting the health, safety, education, and leadership of girls in developing countries. Girl Up also is a tremendous resource providing facts and information on the unique challenges that girls around the world face.

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls

Where it is Best and Worst in the World to be a Child

Save the Children, the world’s leading independent organization for children, has released the second annual End of Childhood Index in honor of International Children’s Day, a day to celebrate and raise awareness on children’s rights and wellbeing around the world. Save the Children’s annual End of Childhood Index ranks 175 countries based on eight childhood “ender” events that jeopardize children’s chance of a happy, healthy and safe childhood. While the report shows that the majority of countries have made progress for children since last year (95 out of 175 countries), conditions in about 40 countries appear significantly worse and are not improving fast enough.

No country is on track to meet the 2030 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) for children.  Over 1 billion children around the world live in countries plagued by poverty and it is not just a developing world problem. In the 2018 report, the United States didn’t rank in the top 10 or top 25. Instead, the U.S. shockingly ranked 36th place smack between Belarus and Russia. The growing urban and rural child poverty rate within the United States continues to widen.  The results of the report may surprise you.

This year’s report has two components: “The Many Faces of Exclusion” and “Growing Up in Rural America”, a new U.S. complement that offers first-of-its kind analysis of rural child poverty rates across America as well as state by state ranking of where childhood is most and least threatened. In advance of the report’s release, I listened in on a telebriefing by Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children to get some of the key highlights of the report and a call to action by governments around the world.

Here are some of the key findings worldwide and in America.

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LifeStraw Follow the Liters

I’m Heading to Kenya with LifeStraw and Here is Why #Lifestraw1million

“For it is in giving that we receive”. – Francis of Assisi

Sometimes life takes an unexpected curve and you just have to go for it. Back in December, as I was preparing for the busiest time of the year for me and my family I received an email telling me about an opportunity to join LifeStraw, a water filtration social enterprise owned by Vestergaard, on their upcoming trip to Kenya in February on a special project: To reach the one millionth child to receive safe drinking water.

I dropped everything I was doing that December day and applied for one of three spots to attend as a storyteller and volunteer on the trip. I hoped for the best and left for the holidays returning right after the New Year to receive the exciting news that I was selected to join the 2018 Follow the Liters team to Kenya!

As I prepare to leave for the trip today, I want to tell you a little bit more about LifeStraw and the what I will be doing for the next week in Kenya. I am thrilled to be going and doing the work I love so much. Traveling, volunteering and doing good! Making a difference has become so important to me throughout the years. I have been blessed with so many opportunities to travel and have realized how inequitable the world can be. Giving back to my family, friends, community and those around the world in need is a critical aspect of my life. I look forward to making a difference over the next week.

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#IStandForGirls: Kurandza’s Mission to Help Girls in Mozambique Go to School

“I’ve always believed that when you educate a girl, you empower a nation.” Queen Rania of Jordan

Kurandza (which means “to love” in Changana, the local language ) is a non-profit social enterprise that invests in the future of women in Mozambique. Founded by Elisabetta Colabianchi in 2014, Kurandza works to empower women and their community through education, entrepreneurship, and sustainable development programs in Guijá, Mozambique.

Elisabetta was first introduced to Guijá, a small village in southern Mozambique, when she lived and worked there as a Peace Corps volunteer at a local hospital. Her main role was to counsel HIV-positive women on the prevention of HIV transmission to their children. During her work she realized that many patients would abandon treatment because they could not pay for transportation to the hospital to pick-up their medicine each month. Elisabetta and her good friend, Percina Mocha who lived in the community, started an income generation project for the HIV-positive women, with the goal of teaching them a skill that would earn enough income to pay for the monthly transportation costs to the hospital. The impact was enormous and sparked the impetus for Elisabetta to do more.

In the Fall of 2014 after returning to the US, Elisabetta founded Kurandza to continue supporting the community through a variety of educational, business and sustainable development programs. Her good friend Percina works as the Country Director of Kurandza in Mozambique and is responsible for managing all of the programs on the ground.

This month, Kurandza has launched the #IStandForGirls campaign with the goal of sending 100 girls to school in Mozambique.  

What is the campaign?

In the month of September the goal is to bring-on 100 purpose-driven individuals who support girls education, empowerment and gender equality to become monthly donors and will afford an education to girls in Mozambique.

For $20 per month (or $240 a year), someone can join the movement and give a future to a girl in Mozambique. The $20 pays for school fees, uniform, backpack, school supplies, school books, photocopies for exams, and transportation to get to school.

I have just signed on to support a girl’s education. It is something I have always wanted to do especially as a mother of a ten-year old girl who has all the opportunity imaginable simply based on where she was born.

Why girls education? 

I had the opportunity to interview both Elisabetta and Percina (who was the first girl to graduate from high school in her community) to learn more about the campaign and the impact an education makes on a girl. Here is what they had to say.

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls
Chicabrava Surf Camp San Juan del Sur Nicaragua

Chicabrava: Empowering young girls through learning to surf

To be a girl in the developing world is an additional hurdle to overcome. Not only will you likely be poor, you will also likely be married young, uneducated, physically and sexually abused and lack the potential to follow your dreams of having a better life.

What if we could change this vicious path and instead give young women an opportunity to thrive, to be inspired and to follow their dreams? 

This is the inspiration behind Chicabrava’s Camp Bella and Chicas Adelante. To break the mold of gender equality by offering young women and girls hope. Hope to dream. Hope to change their destiny and hope for a better future.

Chicabrava Surf Camp San Juan del Sur Nicaragua

The women of Chicabrava Photo credit: Chicabrava

Houston-native Ashley Blaylock moved to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua in 2003 when it was an undiscovered fishing village. She had fallen in love with the country and wanted to follow her dreams of starting up the very first all-women’s surf camp in Nicaragua. At the time, no women surfed yet Ashley persevered. Over time she developed strong ties and acceptance within the local machismo community and opened the doors to Chicabrava in 2008. By working with the community, Ashley helped transform the cultural belief that surfing was only for men and party goers. On the contrary, Chicabrava broke gender roles by demonstrating that surfing is a serious sport that women can enjoy and feel empowered. 

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The Power of Five: How Amway is Beating Malnutrition around the world

Did you know that the first five years in a child’s life are critical for reaching important physical and mental milestones – and every year, more than 3 million children die from malnutrition? It is a tragedy that is entirely preventable and can be stopped. 

This past September at the Social Good Summit in New York City, I had the opportunity to meet with Jeff Terry, head of Amway’s Global Corporate Social Responsibility, to learn about the work he’s leading to address childhood malnutrition around the world. Founded in 1959 in Ada, Michigan, Amway has grown to become a global leader in health, nutrition, home and beauty products sold through Independent Distributors.

Seeing a growing need to combat malnutrition, Amway harnessed their expertise on nutritional supplements to launch the Nutrilite Power of 5 program.  The program delivers Nutrilite™ Little Bits™– a plant-based nutritional product specially designed for under-nourished children from six months to five years old the essential nutrients they need to grow and develop healthier brains and bodies. Amway works with key NGO partners in the field to provide education for families and children as well as monthly health assessments to check on progress. To date, Amway and their partners have performed up to 47,000 health assessments to ensure progress over the long-term, and have provided over 6,500 with the nutrition they need to survive and thrive.

An Amway team visits families in Zambia. Photo credit: Amway

An Amway team visits families in Zambia. Photo credit: Amway

Jeff came to Amway over four years ago and has been working closely with their team on the development and launch of the Power of Five campaign ever since. Seeing a growing crisis in malnutrition and a strong urge to help save lives, Amway used their strong knowledge and expertise in the nutritional supplement industry to launch the Power of Five program which was named to represent the importance of the first five years of life in a child’s development.

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Too Young To Wed Launches Exclusive Print Sale

 “Stephanie Sinclair has spent the last decade documenting some of the world’s most controversial subjects, from Yemen’s child brides to Texas’s polygamists. But her goal is simple: to record what is in front of her and pass as little judgement as possible”. Her beautiful photographs take us in and make us want to help change the tragic realities we are seeing. Her work also inspires hope that change is possible. 

Photo credit: Stephanie Sinclair

Images of 3 Iconic Prints for Sale from Stephanie Sinclair’s award-winning documentary photography collection. Photo credit: Stephanie Sinclair

Too Young to Wed, a non-profit organization, that employs visual media, photography exhibits and campaigns to educate and engage the global community to demand an end to the practice of child marriage, has launched its first print sale in collaboration with Photoville, New York City’s largest annual photo festival.  I have written before about Too Young to Wed in a must-read post after meeting Founder and Executive Director Stephanie Sinclair last fall. Her work on shedding light about the injustices faced by young women and girls is inspiring and has already brought about change.  It is nearly impossible to view Sinclair’s stunning photography without being deeply moved and wanting to help change the fate of these girls.

Stephanie Sinclair

This photo of Ten-year-old Nujoud Ali taken two years after her divorce grace’s National Geographic’s “Women of Vision” cover.  Nujoud’s story caused parliament to consider a bill writing a minimum marriage age into law. Photo credit: Stephanie Sinclair

Too Young to Wed: Mission

Every two seconds, a girl is forced into marriage against her will. The younger she is, the more likely a child bride is to experience domestic violence, contract HIV, develop complications from pregnancies or even die during childbirth. Child marriage robs girls of the childhood and the education they deserve, silencing them and preventing them from achieving their fullest potential.

Too Young to Wed’s mission is to protect girls’ rights and end child marriage. We do this by providing visual evidence of the human rights challenges faced by women and girls. Through our storytelling, we generate attention and resources to amplify the voices of these courageous women and girls and inspire the global community to end child marriage. We transform influential advocacy into tangible action on the ground through partnerships with international and local NGOs and by supporting initiatives in the communities where the girls in our stories live.

Sinclair’s work is phenomenal and incredibly moving. Now you can have a limited edition copy of your own and the purchase is for a fabulous cause. Each 8X10 archival print was hand-printed and signed by Ms. Sinclair, whose award-winning work documenting child marriage has been exhibited around the world. Ms. Sinclair’s work will be featured at Photoville at Brooklyn Bridge Park, and like the premiere photo event, which attracted 71,000 visitors last year, and the print sale will run from Sept. 10 – 20, 2015.

Stephanie_Sinclair_2y2w_Insta_ads_print_sale_final

Prints can be ordered at tooyoungtowed.org/printsale, and 100 percent of the contributions received from photo sales will directly support TYTW’s mission to protect girls’ rights and end child marriage. Too Young to Wed supports local organizations and persons making a difference in the lives of girls and boys who are affected by the harmful practice of child marriage such as:

  • The Samburu Girls Foundation, a grassroots organization in rural Kenya, which provides shelter and education to girls rescued from child marriage, female genital mutilation and other harmful practices. practices. To date, the organization has rescued more than 200 girls and placed 125 of them in boarding school.
  • The women and children of the Kagati Village in Nepal where Ms. Sinclair conducted much of her child marriage reporting in 2007 and an area that was destroyed in the recent earthquakes (child bride, Niruta, 13, is featured as part of this exhibition);
  • Girl Empowerment Groups – an adolescent girls empowerment initiative designed by the Population Council for vulnerable girls living in rural areas. In this capacity, Too Young To Wed will support the village of Gombat, just outside of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia where Ms. Sinclair first photographed Destaye, who was married at 11 to an Ethiopian Orthodox priest (also part of this exhibition).

Photoville Presentations and Talks:

Sept. 12: Stephanie Sinclair will represent Too Young To Wed in the panel Affecting Policy and Change through Photography from 4-5 PM and will discuss how her work transformed into a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending child marriage.

Sept 17: TYTW will engage students during Photoville’s Education Day, a one-day field trip to the photo village that’s free and open to NYC public schools. Hundreds of middle school and high school students participate in a day of photography and storytelling activities, and they’ll have an opportunity to see how photography can bring about social change.

Sept. 19: Stephanie Sinclair discusses her Too Young to Wed photographs during the event An Evening with National Geographic, from 7-10pm at the Photoville Beer Garden. The evening will begin with photos and videos from the past 127 years—including the most recent stories from National Geographic and their digital platforms. Other photographers included are Katie Orlinsky, Robert Clark and David Guttenfelder with Director of Photography Sarah Leen serving as Master of Ceremonies.

Ways to help end child marriage and support Too Young to Wed:

  • Purchase a print during this limited time: Visit tooyoungtowed.org/printsale to support our programming
  • Donate: Visit www.tooyoungtowed.org and click Donate.
  • Volunteer: Share your skills and collaborate with TYTW. For opportunities email info@tooyoungtowed.org
  • Be Social and Keep Educated on the facts by following Too Young to Wed:

Twitter: @2young2wed
Instagram: @tooyoungtowed
Facebook: facebook.com/tooyoungtowed

Hashtags: #endchildmarriage #tooyoungtowed

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A visit to the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre

Author’s note: This post is part of a series on my recent trip and climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, to read all posts click here

Wherever I travel in the world, the one thing that always touches me most is the children of a place. It amazes me that joy, creativity and the desire to be loved is a universal thing that transcends borders, cultures, languages and even circumstances in life. Despite some of the utter hardships some children face – whether it be war, poverty, hunger or disease – I find that kids are still kids no matter what. They all love to play, to learn, to have attention and love, and of course to smile.

Visiting children at either a local school, community-lead program or orphanage has become something I try to do on every trip to the developing world. I have found that even a short time spent playing and interacting with children, even if we can’t speak the same language, does wonders for the soul. There are tons of places in need of volunteers and visitors however finding the right place to visit can be the tricky part. Thankfully the perfect place to visit was just a short walk away from the gates of our hotel in Moshi, Tanzania

Moshi, Tanzania

Right behind the Springlands hotel lies an entire community of homes. I could smell the smoke from the fires filtering into my hotel room and wondered where it came from.

The Springlands Hotel is the base of Zara Tours, one of the leading trekking and safari outfitters in Moshi and is the company we employed for our climb to Mount Kilimanjaro. Run by Zainab Ansell, Zara Tours has been brining guests on amazing adventures for over two decades and has also given back to the community in which they serve through the Zara Tanzania Charity. Zara Charity works to develop and support vulnerable groups within their community such as porters, Maasai women, and local orphans improving the lives for many.

Like most parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Tanzania has been ravaged by the HIV/AIDS epidemic that swept across the continent killing an estimated 30 million people from AIDS-related causes since the beginning of the epidemic twenty years ago (UNAID 2010 report). In Tanzania alone, HIV/AIDS has devastated an entire generation leaving a nation of orphans. UNICEF estimates that there are over 3.1 million children in Tanzania living without parents of which an estimated 1.3 million are orphaned due to HIV/AIDS.  For many of these children, an orphanage is the only place they have to find food, shelter, education and medical attention. 

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Mosebo Village

Helping Mothers around the world

This post was first published on Motherly, a new digital community to help modern women thrive that was launched today. 

Mother’s Day is always a special time of year as it is a time for mothers to be celebrated, appreciated and loved for the endless work we do to raise, nurture and love our children. Being a mom is one of the most wonderful gifts I’ve ever received and as a world traveler and writer on global health issues, I’ve realized how lucky we are as mothers to have the things we need to raise healthy children.

It wasn’t until I began traveling in the developing world that I got a sense of the enormous inequities for billions of mothers and their children who don’t have access to health care, clean water and sanitation, food and immunizations to protect themselves and their families. As an American, middle class mom of two, I took all these things we had for granted until I visited India, Ethiopia, Haiti and parts of Central America where I witnessed the struggles and tragedies that many mothers around the world face. So many moms lost their lives in childbirth delivering at home with no help or lost their babies due to preventable causes. It is heartbreaking and incomprehensible.

Mosebo Village

In Ethiopia at Mosebo Village. June 2014

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SOS Children Ethiopia

SOS Children #Relay4Kids Campaign

“Children worldwide are living in extreme poverty, witnessing horrific violence and suffering the long-term impact of deprivations. Without our support, these children are at heightened risk of exposure to trauma and exploitation. Relay for Kids gives us the chance to make a difference in the lives of these children. Together we can raise awareness about children in crisis and give them the chance to enjoy the safe and healthy childhood they deserve.” -Lynn Croneberger, CEO of SOS Children’s Villages – USA.

One of the most heartwarming afternoons during my two-week trip to Ethiopia as a fellow for the International Reporting Project (IRP) last June was spent visiting a SOS Children’s Village. SOS Children is an independent, non-governmental international development organization that provides loving homes for abandoned and orphaned children in 133 countries for almost 82,100 children. It was founded in 1949 by Austrian Hermann Gmeiner with the first SOS Children’s Village built in Imst, Austria as a home for children orphaned by World War II.

Today, SOS Children works to provide abandoned, destitute and orphaned children with a  loving, family based home. Every child in a SOS Village belongs to a family and is provided with a SOS Mother and “siblings” who are the other SOS Children living under the same roof. This allows the children to grow up in a family being loved and feeling secure. Within each village, there are up to fifteen families living together in a community and each family has up to ten children per house. It is a wonderful model and has had a huge impact on the children’s lives and futures.

SOS Children Ethiopia

A SOS Mother with one of her daughters.

Our group of ten fellows spent the entire afternoon at SOS Children in Ethiopia and it was one of the best memories of my trip. What I liked the best about their program is their model of providing each child with a loving, caring family that will raise them and help them succeed. I wrote extensively about my visit in my post “SOS Children: Providing Ethiopia’s orphans the home they need”. (To read post, click here). 

From March 23 through April 24th, SOS Children’s Villages has partnered with Johnson & Johnson, and the Huffington Post’s Global Motherhood on a campaign called #Relay4Kids that will help provide shelter, food and medical care to children in crisis. During the campaign, child advocates from around the world will work together to raise awareness and funds by posting and sharing stories on the Huffington Post as part of Relay For Kids, a month-long virtual relay with a potential to raise up to $30,000 to help improve the lives of children living in crises.

SOS Children Ethiopia

Mihirat with her twins. She has extra help during the night to help care for the twins and her 8 children.

“Johnson & Johnson has a long standing commitment to helping children around the world. Our partnership with SOS Children’s Villages is an extension of that commitment and has grown to include orphaned children, families in need, and youth striving for a productive adult life”, said Conrad Person, Director, Johnson & Johnson Corporate Contributions. “Now, through the Relay for Kids, we can work together to create a community of support for the greatest of causes, our children.”

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD

100 Under $100: One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women

book-cover-100-Under-100- copyAs part of Mom Blogger’s for Social Good (a global coalition of over 3,000 mom bloggers), I have received an advance copy of the inspiring new book by Betsy Teutsch called “100 Under $100: One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women”, for review. All opinions below are my own take on the book. 

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu

In the field of international development, it is a well-known fact that women are powerful agents of change and development, and it is only by empowering women and girls that the world will be lifted out of extreme poverty. Yet despite this easy assertion women and girls continue to be the most impoverished, most vulnerable and most neglected human beings in the world.

There are many reasons why women and girls continue to suffer the most. Cultural beliefs and norms, war and violence, poverty, lack of infrastructure and education continue to play a significant role in women’s empowerment and rights. However, despite some of these challenging, long-held beliefs, traditions and obstacles, there are proven, cost-effective ways to change the lives of billions of women and girls living in extreme poverty.

Two young girls pose for me during a visit to one of Delhi's many unauthorized slums.

Two young girls pose for me during a visit to one of Delhi’s many unauthorized slums. Despite their poverty, they were enrolled in a program sponsored by Save the Children to improve their lives.

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Too Young to Wed launches Girls Empowerment Campaign in rural Ethiopia

Too Young to Wed, a non-profit organization, that employs visual media, photography exhibits and campaigns to educate and engage the global community to demand an end to the practice of child marriage, has launched a new Girls’ Empowerment Campaign in rural Ethiopia. I wrote at length about Too Young to Wed in a must-read post last week and wanted to introduce their new campaign today in honor of Giving Tuesday (Giving Tuesday is a day that asks people to consider giving back to their favorite charities and always falls on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving in the United States).

By partnering with local nonprofits, Too Young to Wed supports income-generating projects, literacy classes and girl engagement groups where the girls in their stories live. One such project is in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, a place that I actually had the pleasure of visiting myself this past June as a fellow with the International Reporting Project.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is estimated that around 80-90% of Ethiopia’s population live in rural, remote regions and over 30% of the population lives under the international poverty line of $1.25 per day (1) and the majority live under $2 a day. Child and maternal mortality health rates are falling yet still remain quite high, while life expectancy and education rates are low.

Two young girls near Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Photo credit: Stephanie Sinclair

Two young girls near Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Photo credit: Stephanie Sinclair

The status of women is also low and Ethiopia has one of the most severe crises of child marriage in the world today. Although the legal age of marriage is 18 for both males and females it is widely ignored.

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