Though I've been through heartbreak, bad dates and failed relationships, I can't shake being a die-hard romantic. My mother says that I'm a free-spirit led by the heart and friend's are always turning to me for relationship advice. The tarot card reader on 14th street may even tell you that I embody Venus. Like a bird soaring through the sky, finding joy in both rain and sun, I choose my journey and it's destination.
This reality, which at times I like to call my 'blissful surreality,' isn't the case with over 39,000 young girls being forced into arranged marriages each day. According to UNICEF, by 2020 (data beginning in 2011) 140 million girls will marry before the age of 18 and 50 million will be under the age of 15. The younger they marry, the greater the likelihood of them experiencing violence, sexual abuse and death due to pregnancy complications. Their glum situation is also a sort of 'surreality,' though not the same kind that I talk about with my friends over tea.
The United Nations has curated a 'global action plan' called the Millennium Development Goals in order to see that the world's major problems (e.g. hunger, poverty and disease) are substantially minimized by 2015. The third Millennium Development Goal is to promote gender equality and empower women. "Only through women's full and equal participation in all areas of public and private life can we hope to achieve the sustainable, peaceful and just society promised in the United Nations Charter," Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated during a speech on International Women's Day. Women make up half the population, earn ten percent of global income and account for seventy percent of the world's impoverished. In order for society to see positive and sustainable change, gender inequalities must be equalized.
Robbing a young girl of her adolescence denies her the opportunity to be educated and join the workforce. If she doesn't die of birth complications, she may have no other choice than to sell her body in order to provide for her family. Amongst obvious horrors, she is at great risk for contracting and spreading HIV. These teenagers aren't choosing their destination and may never get a glimpse of the path they dream of walking.
Finding the solution to solve this global challenge is herculean, but thankfully there are multiple organizations working tirelessly to tackle these and similar issues. UN Women, for example, is a UN organization dedicated specifically to gender equality and the empowerment of women. Other organizations that have recently shined light on the third Millennium Development Goal are Global Poverty Project, The Nike Foundation, Girl Up, The Happiness Assembly and Women Deliver amongst others.
If left unattended, this child bride snowball effect will carry on it's dark trajectory and continue to deteriorate innocent lives. The brighter option for this grueling global situation is progress. As a die-hard romantic and therefore serial-optimist, I believe we'll make strides toward healing the wounds that are shrouding global progress and see a day where poverty is no longer a reality for nearly a billion women but instead that they may choose their path to happiness, find the love they desire and live happily ever after.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction around the United Nations General Assembly's 68th session and its general debate on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), "Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage" (September 24-October 2, 2013). The session will feature world leaders discussing progress made on the MDGs and what should replace them when they expire in 2015. To read all the posts in the series, click here; to follow the conversation on Twitter, find the hashtag #No1Behind. For more information about InterAction, click here.