Please join us in praying for a cultural shift in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) - particularly when it comes to child marriage.
According to UNICEF, approximately 1 in 5 girls in the MENA region are married off before the age of 18. Our North Africa team are working tirelessly to challenge the common practice of child marriage in North African communities, and they often find that people's mindsets are the main obstacle to lasting change. Renee, our North Africa director, says:
As part of Open Arms, our project to tackle human trafficking, our trainer Rahma goes to the villages and sits with very poor and illiterate mothers and grandmothers. She attempts to shake their deeply rooted cultural beliefs, and challenges the practice of forcing young girls to get married. She does an amazing job.
Sometimes these workshops go very smoothly, but other times she gets all sorts of opposition. One time a group of village women totally rejected what she was saying and stood up and left suddenly!
These mothers have a genuinely deep belief that they are doing the right thing - they consider themselves to be protecting their girls from the unknown by getting them a husband who will protect them. What a lie!
Anyway, in one of these workshops an old mother at the end of the day came up to Rahma with crying eyes, patted her on the shoulder and said, "If only you had come to us one month ago, I wouldn't have forced my young daughter to marry."
This broke our hearts, because we were late and could have saved this girl if we had known or if we were there before the decision was made. How many other girls can we help save, if only we had the resources?'
• Please keep the vulnerable women and girls of MENA in your prayers. Poor and illiterate women, as well as refugees, are the most at risk of being targeted for early or forced marriage.
• Pray that North African people, governments and society would face the reality of the situation and be open to change.
• Pray for women to realize their real value, so that they would have the confidence to say no when they are under pressure to marry.
• Pray for the North Africa team, including Rahma, to be salt and light in the community, and lead the way to create a cultural shift.
Our upcoming July edition of Prayer & Praise includes a longer feature on child marriage in North Africa and how our team is empowering women and changing society. You'll also find out about our new human trafficking film, and more in-depth ways you can pray for the situation. Do sign up to the receive your copy by post or by email if you haven't already!