Young human rights ambassadors share stories of their battles

Hadqa Bashir of Pakistan nearly became a victim of child marriage when she was nine years old, but she is now devoted to putting an end to the practice, she said at an event in Taipei highlighting girls' rights.

The 14-year-old Bashir was one of four Asian Girl Human Rights Ambassadors who attended a press conference held by the Garden of Hope Foundation on Sunday to mark Taiwan Girls Day, which has been observed annually on Oct. 11 since 2013.

Despite her young age, Bashir, a recipient of the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards, has launched a movement aimed at fighting for the human rights of girls and organized parades to protest child marriage and all forms of violence against women and children.

At Sunday's event, Bashir recounted a story of her classmate who was married off as part of an arranged marriage at the age of seven.

The classmate did not return to school after the wedding, but she showed up at a school farewell party in her honor not long after and looked extremely pale with tears flowing down her face, Bashir recalled.

It was only then that they realized she had been beaten by her husband with steel wires, the human rights advocate recalled.

Bashir herself was also set to be married to a taxi driver when she was nine years old, but she protested and eventually won the support of her uncle in resisting the planned union.

She then continued her education and decided to step forward publicly and call for an end to the practice of child marriage, Bashir said.

Other event ambassadors, Inessa Arshakyan from Armenia, Zolzaya Ganbold from Mongolia and Peng Liang-yu (???) from Taiwan, also shared their stories of fighting for the human rights of girls.

Arshakyan, 17, is an advocate in her country for biological conservation, environmental protection and assistance to girls from socially disadvantaged families.

Selective abortion is often conducted to get rid of a fetus determined to be a girl, Arshakyan said, because the tradition for a true Armenian man is to own a house, plant a tree and have a son.

Arshakyan described herself as lucky that her mother not only gave birth to her but also supports her cause, she said, expressing the hope that the media can be used to raise social awareness of gender issues such as selective abortion and child marriage.

In 2013, Taiwan designated Oct. 11 as Taiwan Girls Day at the suggestion of the Garden of Hope. The day is also the International Day of the Girl Child, which was declared by the United Nations in 2011.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel