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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs