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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid