A Girl’s Right to an Education and a Childhood
I photographed this girl last month in the Sinai Desert, Egypt. It was just before I climbed onto the back of a camel to ride through the desert to a Bedouin camp. Now I am home, I wonder how old she is and what is her story? While riding I’ll admit that I was concentrating on not falling off, rather than getting to know the girl who was leading my camel. This really is a shame, as I would have loved to have chatted with her but, even if we had, I doubt that the conversation would have turned to girls rights.
Before we had got there our guide (who was not a Bedouin) was eager to talk to us about Bedouin life and cheerfully explained how the girls are not allowed to go to school, while their brothers only go for a few years so that they can learn to read and write.
As you can imagine (if you have read my post Because I’m a Girl) this deeply saddened me, as did the rest of what he had to say.
The average age for getting married is just 12 years for girls. On the wedding night the parents of the bride and groom sit outside the tent until the groom comes out with the hankie that had been placed on the bed. If there is no blood on the hankie than he has the right to kill his bride as she is not a virgin. If he does not, her father will do it.
A man can have up to four wives so you can imagine how much older some of the husbands are of these young brides. The girls have no say in whether they want to marry, let alone to whom.
This is what we were told but I am hoping that our guide’s account is rather outdated and that women’s right have actually moved on a little in recent years. This would appear to be the case in this fascinating interview with a Bedouin girl also from the Sinai Desert on the site EscapeArtistes. I urge you to read it. If you do you will see that things have improved a little but there is still a very long way yet to go.
I have seen first hand in The Gambia, West Africa, how the work of charities like ActionAid are succeeding in improving girls rights. In The Gambia, just as many girls go to school as boys. This was not the case a few years ago.
Plan is another wonderful charity that I have been involved with and you can read about why I think their work is so important in my post Because I’m A Girl and in another article about how I celebrated the first ever International Day of the Girl with them earlier this year.