Like many older caregivers in Malawi, Dinnah's grandmother was desperate.
Too poor to send twelve-year-old Dinnah (pictured) to school, in urgent need of cash, and entrenched in a patriarchal culture, she agreed to trade her granddaughter to an older man for a few chickens and goats, hoping that this would provide her with a better future.
It's called a dowry.
In Malawi, girls as young as 12 fetch a small monetary value (usually around 50 US dollars) if there is an older man interested in marriage. For the transaction, the family gets a little extra money and is relieved of the crushing financial burden of raising a girl. It’s tragic.
Last week National Public Radio ran a story called "Can Child Marriages Be Stopped?" To my dismay, the heart-wrenching story focused on Malawi--Malawi is one of the worst violators in the developing world for marrying off girls in their teens. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 3 girls are married off before the age of 18. In Malawi, the numbers are even more staggering.To make matters worse, after marriage these girls are often treated like second-class citizens--they have no voice, no power, no chance to finish their education, and they are often abused by their husbands. Dreams are stolen. Hopes are dashed.
I'm writing to tell you, however, that there is good news this Christmas. UrbanPromise International workers are addressing this egregious violation head on.
Five years ago, our executive director in Malawi, Za Chijere, refused to accept the status quo for Dinnah and young girls like her. When he learned of the grandmother's intent, he begged, pleaded, and promised that Dinnah would be educated and mentored. The grandmother, reluctantly, capitulated. This year Dinnah is completing her senior year of high school. She now dreams of becoming a nurse.
One girl. One life rescued.
As you can imagine, there are many other girls like her in our program. That's the reason UrbanPromise International is investing so heavily in girls through empowerment programs, a girls' orphanage, and scholarships for high school.
That's the reason we are asking Malawian families to forego a dowry for a future--the future of their daughter who has potential to do something great with her life. But in order to convince families to keep their daughters, our staff needs to promise caregivers that their girls will be educated, fed, and nurtured. This costs money. This takes commitment.
That's why I need you to give the most significant gift you'll ever give this Christmas season.
Would you contribute $50 so our team can fulfill the promise of nurturing these young ladies into educated, self-sufficient, women of God? You and I know that Dinnah and her friends are worth more than a couple of chickens and goats. Together we can help them believe it’s true.
Together let’s share the Good News!
President, UrbanPromise International
P.S. Every $50 you send will go entirely to our work in Malawi, helping provide a future for a girl at risk of being traded for her dowry. And thanks to a generous donor, every dollar raised for these girls will be matched up to $25,000!