IMPACT
09/25/2014 05:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Nelson Mandela's Widow Offers Simply Perfect View On Gender Rights

Graça Machel, Nelson Mandela's widow, took to the stage at Clinton Global Initiative to speak out on behalf of women and girls worldwide.

Machel, who is the founder of the Graca Machel Trust, sat down with Hillary Clinton Wednesday in New York to discuss crucial issues affecting Africa and its future. And while there are several, Machel said she has chosen to focus on one with far-reaching implications starting at birth: child marriage.

"We opted on child marriage because it brings the fundamental issue of, within the family, how they have to value a girl the same way they value a boy," Machel said in the video above, starting at the 12:30 mark.

She added that child marriage is also an issue related to sexual health, as marrying and having children at a young age puts girls at risk for serious medical conditions.

"No one -- a child of 10, 12 or 14 -- her body will be ready for marriage," she told Clinton.

While child marriage exists around the world, it predominantly affects young girls in western and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as South Asia, according to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). The organization notes that in 2010, 67 million girls aged 20-24 were married before their 18th birthday, and, if current trends continue, 142 million girls will be married before age 18 throughout the next decade.

When girls are forced into marriages, they suffer lifelong ramifications. Girls victimized by child marriage are less likely to receive an education and more likely to experience domestic violence. And, as Machel points out at the CGI event, child rearing by young teenagers dramatically increases the mortality rates of both mother and baby: Girls who are younger than 15 years old are five times more likely to die while giving birth than women in their 20s, according to ICRW.

Take action against child marriage by visiting the Graca Machel Trust's website.

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