How big of a difference can Global Citizens make in the lives of women and girls around the world?
After the 2016 Global Citizen Festival, a very big one.
In places as far-flung as Tanzania, Pakistan, Uganda, and Samoa, the women and girls of the world will feel the benefits of Global Citizens’ efforts to tackle laws that discriminate against women, especially those that legalize child marriage and murder.
Thanks in part to the actions leading up to this year’s festival, young girls in Tanzania may be able to avoid being forced into child marriages. Nearly 30,000 Global Citizens called, emailed, and tweeted at Tanzania’s president and parliament to lobby the government to amend the country’s 1971 Law of Marriage Act and end child marriage. The Marriage Act currently allows girls as young at 14 to be married with parental consent or a court order.
Four out of every 10 girls in Tanzania are married before their 18th birthdays, some of them when they are as young as 7 years old.
One man working to change the law from inside Tanzania is Aristarick Joseph, the cofounder of Youth for Change Tanzania, who appeared at the Festival to talk about the downfalls of child marriage in his home country and urge for accelerated progress to raise the minimum marriage age to 18 for boys and girls.
The Tanzanian government announced that it now intends to carry out public opinion polls before making any changes to the law.
Recently the Tanzanian High Court ruled that sections of the Marriage Act are unconstitutional, and the government has been given a one-year period to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 for both girls and boys.
Three thousand miles away from Tanzania, in Pakistan, girls and women may soon benefit from the collective action of 37,000 Global Citizens who have joined the call for an end to “honor killings,” an act meant to restore the honor of a family or community when a woman behaves against local customs or marries for love.
This brutal practice was outlawed in Pakistan in 2004, but a loophole in the law allows perpetrators to be easily forgiven by a victim’s family — who are often involved in the honor killing themselves.
Academy Award-winning filmmaker and director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a CHIME FOR CHANGE Advisory Board member, showed a short film at the 2016 GCF highlighting the plight of Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani social media star who was murdered over the summer by her brother in an alleged honor killing. Baloch’s parents spoke to Obaid-Chinoy about how they hope their son is brought to justice, and many in Pakistan hope that Baloch’s death has signaled a turning point in the fight to end honor killings.
Global Citizens signed a petition and tweeted at Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistani National Assembly to pass a bill removing legal loopholes that allow perpetrators of honor killings to be pardoned for their crimes. The bill could pass as soon as October.
Read More: This is how you #LevelTheLaw
Tanzania and Pakistan are not the only countries in the world that discriminate against girls and women under the law. Over 90% of countries worldwide have at least one gender-based legal difference on the books which hold women back.
The Commonwealth of Nations, which represents many former members of the United Kingdom, announced that it would work to reform gender discriminatory laws and strengthen legal frameworks in all 53 of its member nations through a newly established Commonwealth Office of Civil and Criminal Justice Reform.
The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, announced at the Global Citizen Festival: “I am determined to achieve gender equality by strengthening legal frameworks and tackling sexist laws that hamper women’s opportunities. Laws that restrict their ability to own property, open a bank account or have legal protection from abusive practices like child marriage and honor killings. Global Citizens, over 83,000 of you have called on me and Commonwealth countries to level the law for girls and women, and I hear you loud and clear!”
Together, the girls and women residing in the 53 Commonwealth countries around the world are set to be reached by the actions taken by Global Citizens leading up to this year’s festival in New York. While the music only lasts one night (albeit, a very, very cool night), the impact of those actions continue to live on.