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Banning child marriage: 3 eighth grade students organize VOW for Girls fundraiser

Photo credit: Miya Nambiar (’25)
Eighth graders Phoebe Miro, Leani Al-Midani and Nissara Shah give a speech about child marriage in the U.S. and the world at their VOW for Girls fundraiser Friday, Oct. 20. The girls shared statistics about the occurrence of child marriage and educated their fellow eighth grade attendees about the dangers associated with it.

Although the United Nations recognizes child marriage as a human rights violation, between 2000 and 2018, nearly 300,000 child marriages have legally occurred in the United States. In California, there is no minimum age requirement to become married, as long as a guardian grants approval and there is an issued court order. Three eighth grade Archer students seek to help ban child marriage.

Eighth graders Leani Al-Midani, Phoebe Miro and Nissara Shah are partnering with VOW For Girls, a nonprofit organization that is working to eliminate child marriage. The students hosted a “Girl’s Night” Friday, Oct. 20, at Al-Midani’s house, where they fundraised for the organization.

All of the proceeds from the fundraiser will go directly to underfunded, local organizations across the globe that further girls’ rights by directly providing resources such as education and job training. Currently, six countries and 177 grantees have received funding. However, as the organization grows, they are looking to expand their reach into the U.S. and other countries.

“Right now, they are mostly working in Africa and Asia, but the organization is trying to expand to the U.S. There’s still quite a lot of cases where people are brought to the U.S. from other countries to get married because it’s still legal in many states,” Al-Midani said. “They are still a relatively small organization, so they need funding to be able to expand.”

Child marriage puts girls at an increased risk for experiencing physical, sexual and psychological abuse and is internationally recognized as a form of gender-based violence. One major issue for child brides is they are unable to get legally divorced until they turn 18.

“We want to fundraise because some of the stories we saw are really heartbreaking,” Al-Midani said. “For example, a girl got pregnant at 9 years old. Then, she got married off at 11 to her abuser, and she couldn’t legally divorce him until 18. People think that it’s okay to be married off younger than 18 because the parents sign off on it, but it’s usually the parents who are forcing them to do this because the daughter gets pregnant, or they want the money.”

There was a cap of 50 people at the fundraiser, but all eighth grade students and additional guests were invited. There was a $25 entry fee and raffle tickets available at additional cost. The girls fundraised nearly $3000 and donated all of the money directly to the VOW for Girls.

A lot of the people attending were super invested in it, and it just seemed like they really cared, which was really cool. It was really amazing that these three really smart and young eighth graders were doing this project about something super powerful.

— Miya Nambiar ('25)

“At the party, they played all Taylor Swift music. There was henna, a lot of dancing, sweatshirt-making and candy,” attendee Miya Nambiar (’25) said. “There were a lot of fun stations, and it just seemed like everyone had such a great time.”

Al-Midani originally heard about VOW for Girls through her mom. After learning and educating themselves about the dangers associated with child marriage, Al-Midani, Miro and Shah became very passionate about the cause. They said they hope to one day bring the organization to the larger Archer community.

“My mom does a lot of nonprofit legal projects to like help the to help the community. She heard about the organization through one of her best friends and told us about it and about possibly doing a fundraiser,” Al-Midani said. “If our fundraising party is successful, we hope to introduce it to Archer officially and possibly do a bake sale to fundraise for the organization.”

At the event, Al-Midani, Miro and Shah made a speech to their fellow eighth graders about child marriage and U.S. and global statistics relating to it. Nambiar said it was “incredibly inspiring” to hear the three girls talk about such an important topic at a young age.

“It was really cool because they’re super young, and they’re learning about this stuff,” Nambiar said. ” A lot of the people attending were super invested in it, and it just seemed like they really cared, which was really cool. It was really amazing that these three really smart and young eighth graders were doing this project about something super powerful.”

Along with raising awareness about child marriage, Shah said an important aspect of the fundraising party was to celebrate girlhood.

“Our party is focused on just celebrating youth,” Shah said. “Because these girls all over the world are having to get married at such a young age, they can’t really live and experience their childhood because they instead have to focus on having the responsibilities of a parent and adult.”

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About the Contributor
Surya Patil, Sports Editor
Surya Patil joined the Oracle as a staff reporter in 2021 and became Sports Editor in 2022. She is currently on the Archer varsity tennis team and on the Athletic Leadership Council. When she is not reporting or playing tennis, you can find her watching 2000s tv shows and spending time with her friends and family.

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