Saturday, October 8, 2016

 On 19 December 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 66/170, declaring 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child. The main objective of this resolution was to draw attention to the serious issues facing this young segment of the society.

Reuters© Tehran 2011
Tehran 2011

Following this initiative, work started in earnest on compiling a comprehensive and analytic report on laws regarding the human rights of young girls in five areas of education, safety, labour, early and forced marriage and health and hygiene. The research produced a report which was published in 2015. A review of the report’s findings makes it abundantly clear that all Iranians should make greater efforts to fully understand the legal challenges and their various ramifications that are impacting children and particularly young girls.

Part of this research project was centred around speaking to children.

To mark the fifth anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child, Kayhan-London, in cooperation with Persia Educational Foundation, has published a number of these conversations which shed light on the daily lives of children.

Conversation with Azar

Azar is in her third year at Kar-va-Danesh Noor [Light of Work and Knowledge] High school in Karaj [40 km west of Tehran]. She is 17 years old, and got married last year. To attend school and continue her studies, Azar has had to abide by the strict admission rules and regulations. She is keen to continue her studies, but worries if she’ll ever be admitted to a daytime school. Azar will have to change school next year, in preparation for her pre-university studies (fourth year). Our conversation with her was mostly about this issue.

How long have you been married?
Since 18 Dey of last year [7 January].

What do you study?
Computer Studies.

How old is your husband, and does he do for living?
He is 25, and works in a factory.

How did you two meet?
We are related. He is the brother of my uncle’s wife.

Were you interested in getting married or did your family urge you to do it?
My husband asked for my hand in marriage three years ago. I liked him. My father gave his consent, but I had to wait three years before I could marry him.

You don’t live together then?
No. It’s not clear when we’ll live together. I prefer to finish school first. I plan to change my major during my pre-university year. I’d like to go to a vocational school, then take the university entrance exam and study medicine.

So, you plan to continue with your studies?

Do you mean to say that your marriage is not preventing you from continuing your education?
No, my husband doesn’t allow it.

Do you mean your husband would like you to continue your education?
Yes. I’d like to study, and my husband is adamant that I should continue my education. He encourages me. He does everything including registering me at school.

How is everything with you? Has being married affected your studies?
It has had no impact. We couldn’t be together for three years. It was very hard for us. My mind was preoccupied, and I couldn’t concentrate on my studies. But I can focus on my studies now that my father has given us his permission to get married.

How many brothers and sisters do you have?
It’s me and my brother. I am the eldest. My brother is younger than me.

Why was your father against the marriage three years ago?
My dad is very attached to me. Fathers are sensitive, and create problem for no reason.

Where are you going to live after you get married?
Karaj. We live in the village of Variyan. But my husband lives in Mahdasht.

Will you have your own home after you are married or will you be living with your husband’s family?
The top floor of my father-in-law’s home is vacant. We’ll probably live there. We want to continue our education, so it’ll be difficult. We’ll get our own place in three or four years.

What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of getting married at an early age?
It depends how you behave. It is fine if you are considerate.

In what way?
I believe single people my age are very anxious – more so than those who are married. Singles befriend someone today then meet someone else tomorrow. A person betrays them today and someone else does the same to them tomorrow. They have too much on their minds and cannot concentrate on their studies. But I, and people like me, don’t have those apprehensions any more.

Are most of your classmates married?
No. There is only me and another girl. Just two of us in our class. And no one in our school knows about it. I was worried that I’d be expelled if they found out. Even now, teachers don’t know about my situation. Only the school principal knows. We’ve promised the principal that we would not tell anyone about the marriage.

How is your relationship with your husband? Do you spend a lot of time together?
We were together all through Nowruz [Iranian New year].One day he was here, and one day I’d go to his house. I haven’t seen him since Sizdah Bedar [Iranian festival held annually on the thirteenth day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian calendar, during which people spend time picnicking outdoor] until today which is Monday. He is busy with work and I have to study, so we see each other from time to time.

 Do you and your husband argue?

What do you mostly argue about?
Mostly childish stuff. I am very sensitive and get offended very easily. My behaviour is childish. Things are better now. The first month was the hardest.

Is there anyone among your relatives and friends who is younger than 18 and is married?
Yes. My husband’s niece and my sister-in-laws. They are all under 18 and married.

Current laws guarantee many rights for 18 years old such as driving and voting. Is this right or irrelevant?
It is correct in some respects, and it is irrelevant in other respects. Different people grow at different rates. Some people are forced into marriage by their families. I am not perfect. I am a child in many respects. I don’t understand many things. I learned a lot from my husband and my mother. Some 20-year-olds may be more mature than me, and may not need the help of people around them. My husband’s family are very good.

 You didn’t answer my question about the current laws and 18 years old.
I think 18 is a good age.

 Did your parents think you were too young to get married?
Yes. They said it many times. But I told them that I’d continue my studies whether I got married or not.It really didn’t have a negative impact on my studies.

 You have registered your marriage. Correct?
Yes. The only problem that I have right now is with my pre-university studies. I don’t know how to study during that whole year.

 Do you mean, schools may deny you admission?
Yes. It’s possible. Some schools are very strict.

 What are you going to do?
I might have to go to a night school. It would be very hard for me. I’ll do my best to avoid that.

 Have you asked around?
I don’t think any school in Karaj would accept me – especially when it comes to theoretical courses. They are more difficult. I’ll do my best not to enrol at a school for adult education.

 But you are planning to continue with your studies?
Yes. A person who has a plan for her life won’t focus on marriage.

 What if you have children?
I don’t intend to have any children, not until I finish my studies.

 Do you own your home or are you renting?
My father is renting.

What impact did your economic situation have on your decision to get married?
My husband makes enough, meaning he manages well. Money has never been that important to me – be it living at my father’s house or my husband’s. I’m always content with what I have.

Does your husband make enough money?
Around a million and some change. That’s enough.

Do you plan to work?
I’d really like to. My husband won’t object either. I’d like to work after I’ve finished my studies.

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