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an inspirational young Indonesian woman called Tin

16 Days of Activism: breaking the chains of early marriage – champion for change

‘Invest to prevent violence against women and girls’ is the rallying call for this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign.

It is a theme that challenges us to all to take positive action to drive change – something that an inspirational young Indonesian woman called Tin has certainly done in her local community.

Tin lives in a village called Kediri Induk on the Indonesian island of Java. It is a village steeped in tradition – including some cultural practices that can be detrimental to young girls.

Most girls in Kediri Induk miss out on further education because they venture into work right after secondary school or, more commonly and concerningly, they succumb to family expectations or financial pressures to get married at a young age. Tin voices the pain of many when she says:

It’s heartbreaking. Young girls here have no choice. If a proposal is declined, it’s a mark of shame. They’re cornered into accepting.

Tin says.

Experience suggests that early marriage in Indonesia often cuts short a girl’s education, limits her economic opportunities, and increases the risk that she will face violence and health problems. In short, early marriage prevents girls from developing to their full potential, reinforcing the cruel cycle of poverty and dependency. This injustice is precisely what the 16 Days of Activism campaign seeks to break by advocating for investment both in prevention and in education as cornerstones for change.

Defying expectations

Tin’s journey has defied the potentially damaging constraints of tradition. She was determined to pursue her dream of higher education. “I realised that to contribute meaningfully to society, I had to aim higher,” she says.

The cultural fabric of village life suggested a predetermined path – accepting a proposal of early marriage and settling into domestic life. But Tin stood firm in rejecting this. Reflecting on her sister’s hardship with early marriage at 17 and then divorce, she wanted a different future. “There is so much more to achieve,” Tin asserts.

I want to make my parents proud and fulfil my dreams.

Tin says.

The power of role models

Tin’s mother spurred her on, tirelessly working to finance her daughter’s schooling. Another of her sisters was also an inspiration, after single-handedly funding her own education. Her family’s struggles and tenacity paved the way for Tin’s own journey, demonstrating how empowered women can contribute to empowering the next generation.

Tin is especially grateful for Islamic Relief’s orphan sponsorship programme, which has helped her with tuition fees. This has been a lifeline on her educational journey, especially at a time when her mother was struggling to make ends meet.

The reactions of Tin’s neighbours to her educational pursuits range from surprise to embarrassment, but Tin handles it all with grace. “I hope my choice to study pharmacy serves as an inspiration, encouraging more people to support their children in pursuing education over early marriage,” she says with conviction.

Tin’s stance against early marriage is unwavering. She wants to see a world where women are not just free to choose their own paths but are also equipped with the knowledge and skills to thrive.

“We can live happily with our partners later,” she says. “But first, continue with your studies and work towards your goals.”

Joining hands with Islamic Relief

Islamic Relief works closely with communities like Tin’s, advocating for girls’ education as a gateway to prosperity and a more equitable world. By investing in the potential of young women, we take critical steps towards preventing discrimination and violence against them.

As Tin’s story illustrates, empowerment and education can transform the lives and prospects of young girls. Through this year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign, Islamic Relief supporters can join us in supporting girls like Tin: investing in their education, standing with them against early marriage, and uniting in the fight to prevent violence against women and girls.

Together, our vision is to build a future where every young woman has the choice to pursue her dreams without fear, bias, or barrier. You can support this vision by donating to our education programmes, and helping us amplify the message of empowerment and education. It is a vision that has the potential to empower many more girls to aspire and inspire – not just for 16 days, but all through the year.

Please help us to continue this vital work. Donate now.

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