Can child marriage be stopped? One girl did and wants others in Indonesia to follow

A young actress plays the role of Giorgia, 10, forced to marry Paolo, 47, during a happening organised by Amnesty International to denounce child marriage, on 27 October, 2016 in Rome. (AFP)
Updated 30 August 2017

Can child marriage be stopped? One girl did and wants others in Indonesia to follow

KUALA LUMPUR: In Sanita Rini’s village on the Indonesian island of Java, child brides were so common that girls who were not married by the time they turned 16 were labelled “old virgins.”
Like other parents in the village, Rini’s tried to marry her off — to a motorbike driver seven years her senior — as soon as she celebrated her 13th birthday.
“I was shocked. I cried, I was angry,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“I knew from my friends who married young, they can’t continue school, their life is over,” said Rini, now 22.
Rini’s story is not uncommon in Indonesia, which is among the top 10 countries in the world with the highest number of child brides, according to campaign group Girls Not Brides.
But she stopped her child marriage and now, along with a group of teenage girls, Rini is seeking to empower others to fight back through a new network, the Youth Coalition for Girls.
One in four girls marry before they turn 18 in Indonesia, according to the United Nations’ children agency UNICEF. On average over 3,500 Indonesian girls are married off every day.
Globally, 15 million girls become child brides each year, exposing them to greater risks of exploitation, sexual violence, domestic abuse and death in childbirth.
Campaigners say poverty and tradition continue to drive underage marriage in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago in Southeast Asia with a population of 250 million people.
STRIKING A ‘DEAL’
The UN defines child marriage as a formal marriage or informal union before age 18. However in Indonesia, the minimum age a girl can wed is 16, and 19 for boys.
Rini said her father, a construction labor, and mother, who runs a grocery store from home, tried for two years to marry her to the man from her village to help the family’s finances.
The youngest of five siblings, Rini resisted and her parents eventually dropped the idea after she struck a “deal” with them.
“I asked my parents how much they have spent on me, for my education. I said I would repay them this money if they let me continue my studies. If they forced me to get married, they would not get a single cent,” she said.
The coalition hopes stories like Rini’s can inspire other girls to stand up for their rights on issues ranging from child marriage to sexual violence.
Launched in March, the group now has 180 members aged between 15 and 24 in 11 provinces across the archipelago who want to tackle gender equality through talks and book projects.
The coalition has a few survivors of child marriage and Rini, the group’s deputy head, said sharing their experiences help girls who are trapped to envision a different future. “I want to tell the girls, they are not alone. They have the power to say no,” she said.
The coalition also reaches out to parents to tell them the importance of education and encourage them to let their children continue their studies until at they are at least 18.
A university graduate, Rini has spoken about her experience in Japan and the Netherlands and her parents are proud of her.
The new coalition comes as women’s rights campaigners in Indonesia broaden their movement by engaging men and religious leaders.
In April, female Muslim clerics issued an unprecedented fatwa — a religious edict which is not legally binding but influential among Muslims — to declare underage marriage harmful and said its prevention was mandatory.
Rini admits the network is only in its infancy, but she hopes by taking this step, politicians will start engaging youths themselves when drafting policies and enacting laws.
“My dream is to see boys and girls in Indonesia enjoy their rights equally,” she said.


Lebanese concept store Dikkeni gives back through art, fashion

Dikkeni aims to supports the creative industry in Lebanon. (Instagram)
Updated 19 September 2020

Lebanese concept store Dikkeni gives back through art, fashion

DUBAI: Founded in London, online concept store Dikkeni is home to a number of established and up-and-coming Lebanese artists, designers and creative talents who sell their wares through the platform, which in turn ensures all net proceeds made from consumer purchases go directly to artists, brands and local NGOs.

Launched under the Lebanese non-profit organization Impact Lebanon, Dikkeni aims to supports the creative industry in Lebanon.

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New on Dikkéni // @alexandrahakim, hand-crafted sustainable and unique jewellery. #straightfromthestudio - Alexandra Hakim’s collections give a new lease of life to found materials and objects which would otherwise go to waste. Inspirations as varied as tomato stems from Beirut’s bustling markets and spent matchsticks found at home are repurposed into striking, contemporary pieces of jewellery. Spearheading sustainability long before it became a trend, each of Alexandra Hakim’s pieces are meticulously made by hand, completely unique and naturally zero-waste. - Photography: @alexandrahakim #dikkeni #sustainable #conscious #sustainablelifestyle #sustainableliving #sustainabledesign #socialenterprise #craftsmanship #lebanon #madeinlebanon #beirut #alexandrahakim #jewellery #handcrafted

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Launched this summer, co-founder Daniella Chartouni spoke to Arab News about the aims of the website.

“Our primary interest is in supporting the designers and making sure that they can continue to produce. Our secondary interest is offering the relief to Lebanon that it needs” — something that is a key concern after the Aug. 4 explosion that ripped through Beirut.

Dikkeni launched in May after the founders felt the need to support the creative industry in their country.

A lot of designers, small businesses and artists in Lebanon have stopped producing due to inflation, Chartouni explained. “No one is buying in Lebanon so, it’s a very tough situation, and the creative industry is one of Lebanon’s best industries.” 

She also added that the street protests which occurred in Lebanon in 2019 constituted “a big time” for Lebanese artists. “They got very inspired by the change happening in the country. So, it was a great way to launch.”

The online platform recently launched their second collection. They partnered with non-profit organization Lebanon Needs, whose focus is healthcare and providing medication, products which Chartouni believes are very difficult to secure during the current situation.

Dikkeni is currently featuring eight artists and designers, who produce sustainable products in diverse art forms, like jewelry, home decor, photography, fashion and more. 

When speaking to Tina Mouheb, one of the UK-based artists who is currently working with Dikkeni, she said that this project is of great importance to her. 

“Firstly, it is my first ‘public’ art display which allows me – as a humble, uprising, socially conscious artist – to start finding my voice,” the designer and former landscape architect told Arab News. “Another reason is the timing of such initiative in the midst of (the) chaos in Lebanon. The need to help local Lebanese NGOs is imperative.”