MURREE: Speakers at a walk here on Sunday called for an end to child marriages and highlighted the importance of access to information about civic and reproductive rights to teenage girls.
A teenage youth group led the World Population Day advocacy walk here in the afternoon. The walk that started from the General Post Office (GPO) was staged at the Mall Road.
A large number of people participated in the walk organised by the Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan), Islamabad Devcom Centennial Leo Club (IDCLC), Islamabad Crescent Lions Club (ICLC), Islamabad City Lions Club, and Islamabad Leo Club to mark the World Population Day.
The theme of the walk was “investing in teenage girls”.
The Devcom-Pakistan Executive-Director, Munir Ahmed, while speaking on the occasion said, “Our society and government should ensure health, education, nutritious food and basic human rights to the teenage girls, than getting them married at an innocent age.”
Child marriages create health complications for the girls besides psychologically affecting them for their entire lives, he said.
Marriages of teenage girls also show the moral and ethical paucity of the society, said Ahmed, adding it was evident that the government had totally failed to implement the law of the land.
Many of the non-governmental organisations also wait for the donor funding to raise their voice against this huge issue in our society, he said.
We need to be socially courageous to develop a frontline against the menace of early marriages of the girls, Ahmed added.
He said that in 1989, the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme recommended that 11 July be observed by the international community as the World Population Day, a day to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues.
Dr Masood Ghani from Federal Government Services Hospital (popularly known as the Polyclinic Hospital) said the marriage of teenage girls created many health issues for them.
He said that the parents should be vigilant in that regard and should not accept any social pressure.
Another participant Muhammad Hussain Turi said that teenage girls around the world face enormous challenges.
Many are considered by their communities or parents to be ready for marriage and motherhood, he said.
Many are forced out from schools that damage their career prospects, Turi added.
Even among girls who stay in school, access to basic information about their health, civic and reproductive rights can be hard to come by, leaving them vulnerable to illnesses, injury and exploitation, he said.
Islamabad Devcom Centennial Leo Club President Shaaref Munir said that all the Leo Clubs would develop an integrated awareness raising campaign against the teenage marriages of the girls.
He said that they would spend some time on a weekly basis with the marginalised communities to inform them about the consequences of early marriages.
Munir said that the health, education and human rights challenges were exacerbated among girls from marginalised communities.
Yet when teenage girls are empowered, when they know about their rights and are given the tools to succeed, they become agents of positive change in their communities, he added.
Former member National Assembly Hanif Abbasi also participated in the walk.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2016.