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

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid