Combating Child Marriage Through Student Debates

July 20, 2011
South African students are voicing new ideas to help end child marriage, a practice that cuts short the childhood of one in seven girls in developing countries. At the Global Classrooms©: Johannesburg Model United Nations Conference on May 28, nearly 600 participants gathered, research in hand, to step in to the shoes of international delegates to the UN.

The conference, hosted by the United Nations Association of the USA  and the South African Institute of International Affairs is the only one of its kind in South Africa, giving middle-school and high-school students the chance to take more responsibility in their global education. In the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) simulation, for example, students debated ways of ending child marriage, stressing the need for gender equality while respecting diverse religious and cultural practices.

“I am highly impressed with the standard of debate by the learners on child marriage,” said André Viviers, senior social policy specialist with UNICEF South Africa.  “They were very well prepared and did good research. I think the Model UN is providing a perfect opportunity for the civil education as well as life skills development of these young people."

With the help of tutors from local universities, student delegates were ready to discuss international issues relevant to their communities.

The United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign recently launched a campaign to raise awareness about child marriage.  Over 100,000 of its teen supporters in the U.S. are rallying together and asking the Obama Administration to strategically address the issue of child marriage so that girls around the world won't be forced into getting married and bearing children before they’ve left their own childhood. The girls are also raising money that will go toward UN programs fighting to end child marriage.

“I live in a place where youth take part in alcoholism, drug abuse and crime,” said a student from Fumana Comprehensive High School. “It is through programs like these where we find motivation and truly believe that our futures are not determined by our backgrounds.”  

Founded more than a decade ago, Global Classrooms has developed the only comprehensive program of study and instruction based on Model UN. The program brings global issues education and the Model UN experience to public schools across the U.S. and a diverse array of schools around the world. For more information, please visit www.globalclassrooms.org.

To learn more about issues related to women and girls, and to discover what you can do to help, visit www.GirlUp.org and learn more about the fight to end child marriage.



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