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Sherly speaks out against child marriage

“I will speak up if child marriage is about to happen in my neighbourhood”, said Sherly, after delivering her speech in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, for the Enough! campaign during 16 Days of Activism for eliminating violence against women and girls. Sherly is a nineteen-year-old woman from the EYW Youth Hub in Bulucindea, Pangkajene dan Kepulauan. She finished her studies in marketing at a vocational school in 2018. Now, she is working as a treasurer in the office of Badan Usaha Milik Desa (Village-Owned Business Entity).

However a year ago, not long after her graduation, she almost ended up in an arranged marriage. Her mother had decided to marry her off due to financial problems. Unfortunately, this is the fate of many young people in her community. She explained that parents marry off their daughters and sons at a young age due to financial problems, unwanted pregnancies, or sick parents that want to have the opportunity to see their child married, or even to take care of the them (the wife will look after her husband’s sick parents).

Luckily, Sheryl was able to speak up and make her own decision. She gave her mother an understanding that she is not ready to marry at such young age, both physically and mentally. As an advocate for ending child marriage, she speaks out against the practice as it increases maternal mortality, child mortality, and violence against women. She mentioned that child marriage stops young people from continuing their education which makes it difficult for them to find a job, trapping them in a cycle of poverty.

It was difficult for her at first because she received lack of support from her family. However, if Sherly had not spoken up, she won’t be here today to talk about her dream. Now, her mother fully supports her to achieve her goal. In Sherly’s words, “My mother gradually starts to open her mind and actively reminds me to save the money for education.” Sherly genuinely expresses her dream to continue her study in university. That is why she is working to achieve her dreams to pursue her higher education.

Furthermore, she has improved herself through EYW program that helps her to be the person who she is today. She always attends soft skill trainings in the Youth Hub because they help her grow. Sherly mentioned, "I become confident talking in public now compared to myself in the past. That is why I have the courage to be a speaker today.”

These learnings have willed her to become a role model in her community. She is now actively inviting her friend to join the Youth Hub, especially encouraging those who are unemployed to use their time to enhance skills and knowledge as well as being confident to speak in public. “Human Centre Design (HCD) training is helping me and friends identify our village’s potential, which is useful for starting a business idea,” she added.

Sherly wants to continue the advocacy together with her Youth Hub members to relevant stakeholders such as local leaders, religious leaders, village authorities, and district-level government. She was thrilled when Petahana Syamsuddin A. Hamid, the Head of Pangkajene dan Kepulauan District, showed his support and commitment to stop child marriage during the 16 Days of Activism campaign. It has inspired her to continue what she has started. She is hoping that she will have further support and guidance in the Youth Hub to learn the skills.

Photo credit: Hariyani Putri/ Programme Assistant (12/8/19)