News / Africa

Film Starts Discussions on Child Marriage in Senegal

Jennifer Lazuta
— An estimated one in three girls in Senegal are married before the age of 18, putting them at a higher risk for abuse, complications from pregnancy, and making them more likely to drop out of school. To engage families in a discussion about the dangers of forced early marriage, an internationally acclaimed film is now being screened in villages throughout the country.

A new film, Tall as the Baobab Tree, is being shown in communities across Senegal, and around the world, to shed light on the issue of child marriage.

The director of the film, Jeremy Teicher, spoke to VOA via Skype.

"Tall as the Baobab Tree is a fiction film about the sort of generational gap, the experience of being the young generation in a village that is entering the modern world for the first time," he said. "The main experience that this film focuses on is educating versus early marriage, which seems, in my experience, to be the single biggest challenge that this younger generation faces, coming from these traditionally conservative, rural villages.”

The story, which is set in and filmed in a Senegalese village, follows two sisters who are the first from their family to ever go to school. When the older sister finds out her father plans to sell her 11-year-old sister into an arranged marriage, she comes up with a plan to save her.

Pervasive trend

Worldwide, there are an estimated 14 million girls who get married before their 18th birthdays.  

While marrying at such a young age limits the potential of girls, and could endanger their health and well-beings, it is not necessarily viewed as a harmful practice in many places.

Teicher said it is for that reason he went to great lengths to approach the issue from a non-judgmental standpoint.

“We actually see that in this case, the early marriage is just a result of two different generational mindsets, where the parents think that this marriage is really what’s best for their daughter, whereas the younger kids know that school is really the best option for her future, but the older generation just doesn’t fully understand or can’t fully accept that new mindset. So it’s this sort of tragic situation, where there is no villain, it’s more just a lack of understanding,” he said.

Teicher said this approach has prompted communities to start dialogues about the issue.

Increasing communication

Lakshmi Sundaram is global coordinator of Girls Not Brides, a partnership of civil society groups that work to end child marriage. She said that such dialogues, along with increased access to education, are crucial for reducing the number of child brides.  

Dialogues, she explained, are the first step in changing the attitudes of village elders and religious leaders, who often play an important role in determining what is and isn’t appropriate for the children of the community.

“We’ve been really excited by the film Tall as the Baobab Tree because we are convinced that these sorts of films and media projects can play an incredibly important role in starting to bring light to this issue," said Sundaram. "It’s been shown in over 60 schools in Senegal, and really started to prompt a discussion and dialogue about this issue in a way that’s not at all sensationalist, that’s very respectful of the incredibly difficult choices that girls and families have to face when thinking about marrying off their children.”

Teicher said the film also has been validating for many kids to see they are not the only ones feeling torn by tradition and modernity, and it has empowered young people to see that even if change takes time, it is possible for them to make the changes they want to see in their communities.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid