Choosing well for a better future Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Sep. 17, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

Recently, I saw a heartbreaking short film by photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair about the lives of girls in rural Guatemala who were forced to marry early to older men. The film depicted what happens to girls who marry by age 14 or younger and have their first or second child before many teens go to their junior prom.

Girls Not Brides, an organization that seeks to end child brides around the world, says that more than 30 percent of women in the world today were forced into marriage before age 18.

Sinclair quotes from an editorial on the subject written by Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Graça Machel, the first education minister of Mozambique: "Choices define us and allow us to realize our potential."

Child marriage means girls can't get the skills and education they need to lift their families out of poverty. They're stuck.

In the film, it was heartbreaking to watch a 14-year-old with a baby talking about her dreams for the future. She wanted nothing for herself. She only wanted her baby to study and to somehow escape a fate like hers.

Teens can dream of becoming doctors or rap stars, running small businesses or climbing the corporate ladder, working in politics, teaching, or finding a cure for cancer -- but only if they have a choice.

Any choice is like a hallway with two doors. When one opens, the other one stays closed for good, and if you've made a good choice, you’ll be rewarded with a new hallway full of doors to consider.

But what if that choice is denied? What if teens deny themselves that choice, not by their circumstance, but by their actions? While saving yourself for marriage or staying clean and sober sounds outdated and uncool, teens who choose to have premarital sex and take risks with drugs and alcohol may be denying themselves that choice.

Having a baby while you’re still in school, dealing with having to pay child support, experiencing debilitating addictions -- those take away your choices as much as child marriage.

You can do something for yourself, and that’s to give yourself the chances you deserve. Stay away from making risky choices. Don't grow up too fast. Make the choice to be a teenager, to study, to hang out with your friends, to work hard. And make sure to pray for girls who may never be able to do the same.

Karen Osborne contributes to “Coming of Age,” a CNS column series for and about youth. She is a staff writer for the Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y..


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