Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Documentary: "A Way to Justice"

The following is from UNAIDS (
A new documentary film following the lives of four people in Africa aims at challenging patriarchy, end men’s violence against women and promote gender equality. Produced by Sonke Gender Justice and MenEngage, the film titled A Way to Justice: Engaging Men for Women’s Rights and Gender Transformation focuses on gender, HIV and human rights issues.
“We need to build creative initiatives, to transform gender norms and break through cultural barriers to create new masculinities. By fostering women and men’s leadership for gender equality, we can succeed in creating safer, more just societies and stopping violence against women and girls.” said Michel SidibĂ©, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
Violence and the threat of violence hamper women and girls’ ability to adequately protect themselves from HIV infection and assert healthy decision making. The prevalence of forced first sex among adolescent girls younger than 15 years ranges between 11% and 45% globally. Adolescent girls and young women are among the most vulnerable groups to HIV infection.
In the film individuals speak about the difficulties they confronted and transcended. David Tamba, a Sierra Leonean fleeing from civil war whose wife was gang-raped by rebels, began working with other men in refugee camps. “All men were viewed as bad men. But there were also men who were peaceful, who equally suffered, so the way to turn the story around was to start talking to our colleague men and go out and campaign for gender equality and empowerment of women,” said Mr Tamba.
You can also watch some of the film by clicking here
I'd also like to draw your attention to another film, "Can't Just Fold Your Arms." This film follows 3 activists as they train, discuss, debate, and listen around the reality of South Africa over a period of two years. Read more about this film here

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Domestic Violence in Muslim Communities

Today as I read through the news I came across an article entitled, "Nazish Noorani, Domestic Abuse and American Muslims." This immediately caught my eye because the American Muslim population is an understudied population when it comes to issues related to violence within intimate relationships. As I read this article, I came to appreciate that it not only discussed resources, such as Turning Point for Women and Families, but that it attempted to break the dynamics of abuse down and additionally examine the components of intimate violence that might be not only specific to Muslim populations, but to faith-driven relationships of all denominations. For example, the article details that it takes on average 10 attempts at leaving before a woman finally leaves. Previously that number was 7 attempts. This rise in attempts demonstrates added elements that religion and culture play within intimate relationships, including or absent of violence. And, did you really just think about that. 10 attempts. This alone demonstrates that need for support women seeking exit from violence require. And, keep in mind that the research shows the most dangerous time for a woman in a violent relationship is as she leaves.

Furthermore, I appreciated that this article discussed the impact on children. When I teach Violence against Women and Girls, I spend quite a bit of time on this topic. Sometimes it seems adults forget how aware children really are.  While the statistics represented in the article are a bit different from the research I draw from, I think the commonality that everyone would agree on is that children are affected.

I've included a link below of an actual 911 police call made by a 6-year-old girl named Lisa (Nov 21, 1991).  While the audio in this video is extremely upsetting, the police report that upon arrival, the violence was actually rather minimal. What we have to remember, however, is that the perception of a child can be much different from that of an adult.

WARNING: This may be graphic and emotionally upsetting for some. If you choose not to hear the audio, you may read the transcript of the call by clicking here.

To listen to the 911 call, please click here. Note, there are parts of the tape that get quite loud. Be aware of the volume of your speakers.

When Lisa was found approximately 15 years later, she was in an abusive relationship herself. When she was pregnant with her second child, she reported that something snapped and she decided to get out of the relationship. She stated that she didn't want to end of like her mother.

So, this article was full of great things to think about. The impact on children, resources available specifically to the Muslim population, how religion impacts the experience of domestic violence and/or help-seeking behaviors. I highly recommend checking it out. Let me know what you think of the article and/or of the Lisa tape.

Lastly, since today brought up the intersection of religion with VAWG, I also found the following article on the Huffington Post. Check it out if you're interested: What Christians Need to Learn from Sl*twalks

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New Children's Book: 'Maggie Goes on a Diet'

I'm at a conference and don't have a lot of time currently. But, I came across this book and wanted to go ahead and post it. Yes. I recognize we have an obesity problem in our society. Yes. I recognize we have an obesity problem within our child and youth populations. Why, however, is there a book about dieting when you are 14? Why is the book about dieting and not health more generally?  AND, why is it specifically about a young GIRL?  Are girls the only sex with a weight issue? Are females the only group that should be concerned with weight?  Where is the line drawn between health and development of eating disorders? The following statistics are from the National Eating Disorder Association:
  • In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder.
  • In a 2003 review of the literature, it was shown that 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia are in girls 15-19 years old.
  • In the same review of literature, it was shown that between 1988 and 1993, the incidence of bulimia in women ages 10-39 TRIPLED.
  • Furthermore, it has been shown that 46% of 9-11 year-olds are "sometimes"  or "very often" on diets, and 82% of their families are "sometimes" or "very often" dieting (Gustafson-Larson & Terry, 1992).
  • 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being "fat" (Mellin et al. 1991).

Oh, the questions could keep coming. Look at the book cover alone. Do you see the image in the mirror?

This book is scheduled to be on bookstore shelves on October 16. The author of the book, a male named Paul M. Kramer, states:

"This book is about a 14-year-old girl who goes on a diet and is transformed from being extremely overweight and insecure to a normal sized girl who becomes the school soccer star. Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image."

Barnes & Noble recommends the book for children ages 6-12.

Read the below articles for more:
Dangerous? Book about Dieting Teen Targets Kids 6-12

New Book Encourages Young Girls to Diet

Maggie Goes on a Diet & We Search for a Fat-Friendly Children's book

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Feminism: Need a new word?

I was reading an article today on that really caught my eye. When I teach the feminism comes up in most, if not all, of my classes at some point.  I remember when I labeled myself as a feminist one time someone asked me how I planned to be a mother and a career-oriented woman. I responded that the two were certainly not mutually exclusive in my mind. What comes to mind for you when you hear the word feminist? Are you one? Are you proud or do you identify as a feminist in only certain situations or around certain people? These questions are not to lay on a guilt trip, but truly to help start a dialogue around this word and what it means to different people. I often ask my students whether men can be feminists. Usually they all jump to yes (surprising perhaps). But, I can see some of them thinking more and more about it. I can see that this "yes" response doesn't sit perfectly with everyone. Can a man be a feminist?

For me a feminist is someone who supports equal rights between men and women. There is no set appearance, sexuality, education level, religion or any other social characteristic that dictates whether someone is a feminist or not. Take a look at this video:

What do you think? Surprised by any of the responses? Maybe not surprised, but disappointed. Yes. I am.

So, this article I read, it was all about renaming feminism. Making it more socially acceptable. Softer. Jezebel solicited suggestions and the following list was created:

Flesh-Hungry Young Slutism
Lieutenant Ripleyism
Reallyism (as in "really? In 2011 that's acceptable behavior or thought to have about women? really?")
Equality for everyone regardless of their genitals
Equaligasm (an adherent of equaligasm would be an equaligasmitist)
FYATPHPHYRIO? (Pronounced Fee-Aht-Fee-Ree-Oh): Fuck You And The Privileged Heterosexist Patriarchal Horse You Rode In On
GEM (Gender Equality Movement)
Decency (feminists are "decentists.")
and special mention to [a symbol of our choosing]
But the winner?


I'm not going to lie, some of these suggestions are funny. Some I don't like. And some, well, are very bluntly correct, in my opinion.

So what is wrong with feminism? Do we really need a new word? Is there harm in using a new word? Won't it too just be labeled and negatively sanctioned?

I think this topic is important because we're picking on a word. A word that symbolizes equality between sexes. Is it really a battle against a word, or is it really a battle against equality, which our society is scapegoating a word?

If you'd like to read the jezebel article, click here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Girl Forced to Apologize to Boy Who Raped Her

Girl Forced to Apologize to Boy Who Raped Her

Monday, August 15, 2011

North Carolina Eugenics Board Victims Fight For Justice

The woman in the video below is Elaine Riddick. When Elaine was 14 she birthed her first, and only, child. Her son's father was a man who raped Elaine.  While doctors where performing a caesarean section on Elaine, they also sterilized her. Elaine is now 57-years-old and speaking out about what she calls her "second rape." This second rape was performed by the state.

WINFALL, N.C. -- Elaine Riddick's small frame heaves, her rapid, shallow breaths whistling in her throat as she forces the words out between her sobs.
"So what am I worth?" she asks the five people seated at the long table before her. "The kids that I did not have, COULD not have. What are THEY worth?"
"Priceless," Tony Riddick whispers as he gently rubs his mother's back.
Elaine Riddick has been asking these same questions, in one forum or another, for the past 40 years. This most recent appearance in late June was before the Governor's Task Force to Determine the Method of Compensation for Victims of North Carolina's Eugenics Board.
As far as Riddick is concerned, she tells the panel, she was raped twice. Once by the man who fathered her son, and again by the Eugenics Board of the State of North Carolina, which deemed her, at age 14, unfit to procreate.
"I am NOT feebleminded," she shouts, turning to face the packed hearing room. "I've never BEEN feebleminded."
"No," says her son, standing beside her behind the podium.
Tears streaming down her face, she says, "They cut me open like I was a HOG."
Between 1929 and 1974, North Carolina sterilized more than 7,600 individuals in the name of "improving" the state's human stock. By the time the program was halted, the majority of those neutered were young, black, poor women – like Riddick.
In many ways, Riddick's has become the face of the movement to compensate victims of what most now acknowledge as a dark, misguided era in the state's – and nation's – past. From her decision to sue the state in federal court nearly four decades ago to this most recent baring of her soul, she has refused to simply fade from view.
Instead, the 57-year-old Riddick has become an inspiration to other survivors of the state's eugenics program.
One of them is Australia Clay, whose mother was sterilized, and who, following Riddick to the podium, tells her how lucky she was to have had Tony – no matter how violently he was conceived.
"You're blessed," Clay says through her own tears. "`Cause he can help fight for you now. I see God's hand in your life."
Riddick says she never felt otherwise.
The sun is almost infernal as Tony Riddick steps from the air-conditioned sanctuary of his SUV and strolls down Louise Street in this rural crossroads where the Perquimans River empties into Albermarle Sound. Pearls of sweat dot his shaved head as he makes his way to a simple gray frame house beside a drainage ditch that separates the road from the farm field beyond.
When he was growing up, folks used to call this section of town "Little Korea" – because the violence and poverty reminded them of a Third World country.
"This right here is a good example of what God is capable of doing," Riddick says, gesturing around him. "My mother's life and my life, by ANY measure, would have been, should have been, COULD have been totally written off."
The house belonged to Elaine Riddick's maternal grandmother, Maggie Woodard – "Miss Peaches," as she was known. The two-bedroom home was a refuge of sorts, with 10, sometimes 15 people spilling onto pallets on the floors.
By age 13, Delores Elaine Riddick had taken refuge here.
World War II had left her father, Army veteran Thomas Cleveland Riddick, an abusive, alcoholic, "shell-shocked" husk of a man; her mother, Pearline Warren Riddick, was in the women's prison for assaulting her husband. The Director of Public Welfare for Perquimans County had taken custody of Elaine, and Woodard was receiving government surplus food for the girl.
Riddick, third-oldest in a family of seven girls and one boy, was forced to wear the same clothes several days in a row. Picked on by bullies, she often skipped school.
With so many children in the house, there was little supervision. Riddick would go to friends' houses for dances and stay out late.
One Sunday evening, around dusk, she was walking home alone from a party when a man jumped out of the bushes of an abandoned house about two blocks from her grandmother's. Clapping one hand over her mouth and twisting her arm behind her back with the other, he led her to a nearby car and raped her.
She knew the man from the neighborhood. He was 10 years her senior.
He said if she ever told anyone, he would kill her.
At 13, Riddick knew nothing about where babies came from, let alone morning sickness. So when she became ill while picking cucumbers one day, she told her grandmother she thought someone had poisoned her.
When Woodard finally learned that her granddaughter was pregnant, Riddick was afraid to tell the truth. She said the father was an older boy from nearby Edenton whom she'd met at a party.
It was a lie that would come back to haunt her.
After Thomas Anthony Riddick was delivered on March 5, 1968, Riddick remembers awaking to find her abdomen swathed in bandages.
What she didn't know was that a month and a half earlier, five men sitting around a table across the state in the capital had decided that Riddick's first child should be her last.
The word "eugenics" comes from the Greek for "well-born."
By the early 20th century, most U.S. states had eugenics programs, and more than 30 enacted laws mandating surgical sterilization for certain individuals. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 people were sterilized in the country before the practice was discredited.
On Jan. 23, 1968, members of the North Carolina Eugenics Board met in Room 539 of the state Education Building in Raleigh to consider the latest petitions for "operation of sterilization or asexualization." Among them was Case No. 8: "Delores Elaine Riddick – (N) – Perquimans County." The "N" stood for Negro.
Board members were given a summary of each case. The board secretary would place the complete files in the center of the table, should a member need additional information before making a decision.
Riddick's file contained an evaluation from Dr. Helton McAndrew, a clinical psychologist.
A year earlier, social services had ordered Riddick examined for possible placement in an orphanage. On April 5, 1967, not long before the rape, McAndrew met with the troubled 13-year-old.
Despite reports that she was irritable and anti-social, McAndrew found Riddick "well behaved, pleasant and cooperative."
"She attends school regularly and is neat in spite of not having sufficient clothes," he wrote. "She is generally hungry which is probably an important factor in her being easily irritated and having difficulty getting along with others."
She told McAndrew she wanted to go to college and become a nurse.
Although she was in the "slow section of the seventh grade," testing revealed that Riddick had an IQ of 75 and a mental age of 9 years and 10 months. McAndrew felt that her "tremendous feelings of insecurity stemming from the disturbed home conditions" were causing her irritability and "also repressed her level of intellectual functioning."
"Delores Riddick's chief problem is her poor home," he concluded. "We expect this girl to perform more adequately in an improved environment ..."
Social worker Marion Payne took a dimmer view of things.
While McAndrew found that Riddick was "comparatively at ease in school" and was "doing above average work," Payne reported that the child did "poor school work" and "does not get along well with others."
Payne noted that the family had been receiving public assistance for much of the previous decade, and that both parents were alcoholics. A doctor had assessed Riddick as "feebleminded."
"Because of Elaine's inability to control herself, and her promiscuity – there are community reports of her `running around' and out late at night unchaperoned, the physician has advised sterilization," the final recommendation read. "This will at least prevent additional children from being born to this girl who cannot care for herself, and can never function in any way as a parent."
Three weeks before the board meeting, Thomas Riddick had signed a form consenting to the procedure – even though he no longer had custody of his daughter. Payne also reported that the situation had been explained to Woodard, and that she agreed that it would be best if her granddaughter had no more children.
And so, after delivering Riddick's son, Dr. William Bindeman clipped, resected and cauterized her fallopian tubes.
Riddick developed an infection and had to remain in the hospital for another week. Her grandmother took Tony home.
Riddick tried to be a mother to her son. She breast-fed and bathed him. But her grandmother, concerned about bad influences in the local environment, decided to send her to live with an aunt on Long Island, N.Y.
At 18, Riddick married a man she met in New York. When the new couple's efforts to conceive failed, Riddick went to a specialist. It was then, she says, that she learned what the surgeon had done four years earlier.
Riddick says her inability to bear children drove a wedge between her and her husband, contributing to their eventual breakup. She says she went into a kind of "hibernation." When friends became pregnant, she withdrew from them, unable to bear the pain of witnessing their joy.
"I became a hermit," she says. "I locked myself away. I hid within my own self."
During a visit home shortly after learning the truth about her operation, Riddick was watching her grandmother rake the front yard and suddenly dissolved into tears. She told her what the doctor had said, and asked why she had allowed her to be sterilized.
All Woodard could remember was the social worker handing her a piece of paper and saying that if she refused to sign her mark, the family's food supplements would be cut off.
"Lord knows I didn't know what I was doing," she told Riddick. "Lord knows I would never do that to you."
Her granddaughter believed her.
After about a year of this self-imposed exile, a sister suggested Riddick do something about it. She went to see the American Civil Liberties Union.
In 1973, the group's Women's Rights Project – then under the direction of future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – had filed a federal suit against the state of North Carolina on behalf of another victim of the sterilization program. They were looking for more plaintiffs to join a class action.
Delores Elaine Riddick stepped forward.
On Jan. 18, 1974, ACLU attorneys filed suit in U.S. District Court against the members of the state Eugenics Commission, as it was by then known, local social workers and the hospital where the operation was performed. She was seeking $1 million.
It would be nine years before the suit would go to trial. As the case wound its way through the process, and defendants were dismissed and added, Riddick tried repair the physical and emotional damage she had suffered.
During summer vacations, Tony would come to New York for visits. She divorced and rediscovered love.
In October 1981, Riddick underwent an operation to reverse her sterilization. Doctors could only repair one side, and even then placed her chances of becoming pregnant at only 50 to 60 percent.
Riddick, who dropped out in the eighth grade, obtained her high school equivalency diploma. In June 1982, she graduated from the New York City Technical College with an associate's degree in applied science.
Although the Eugenics Commission was formally abolished in 1977, the ACLU pressed on. At last, in January 1983, testimony began in U.S. District Court at New Bern.
Attorneys for the board members argued that they had acted in good faith as public officials. Member Jacob Koomen, state health director at the time, testified that sterilization in North Carolina was "an invited phenomenon."
"Do you contend that this young woman invited that she be sterilized?" asked Riddick's attorney, George Daly.
"The invitation was issued in her behalf," Koomen replied. "The usual response was that we were doing a favor." Koomen noted that the board was sometimes asked to sterilize girls who had not yet reached puberty.
During the trial, Kenneth N. Flaxman, another of Riddick's attorneys, pressed the board members on their decision to sterilize her, even though her IQ was above the limit at which someone was legally considered feebleminded at the time.
"You made a mistake back in `68, didn't you, doctor?" he asked R.L. Rollins, a forensic psychiatrist and superintendent of the Dorothea Dix Hospital.
"Based on the criteria that I used and in North Carolina in 1968, our programs, our situation, I believe this was a reasonable decision at the time," he said.
On day two, Riddick was called to testify. She told jurors of the rape, despite defense attempts to bar that testimony. She explained her decision to lie. She denied that doctors had explained the procedure to her, and that she had consented. She talked of her recent surgery, and how her continued failure to conceive made her feel "less than a woman."
In his closing arguments, Deputy Attorney General William F. O'Connell argued that the board had been presented with a body of evidence "virtually mandating the conclusion ... that sterilization would be in the best interest of this young lady."
Daly, in his closing, countered that, had Riddick been granted the hearing to which she was entitled, she might have told the board that she had been raped. But the doctor and board saw her as "a piece of baggage," "a nonperson," he said.
"She was put in a prison of pain that stayed with her for a long, long time after that operation."
The trial ended on Jan. 19, 1983. It took the jury just 45 minutes to render its verdict.
When asked whether Riddick had been "unlawfully or wrongfully deprived of her right to bear children as a proximate result of the actions of any of the defendants," the jury replied, No.
Flaxman took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Oct. 1, 1984, the high court declined to hear it.
Following the trial, Riddick moved to suburban Atlanta to live with one of her younger sisters. Her son eventually joined her there.
Riddick had largely abandoned any hope of justice until about a decade ago, when a team of Winston-Salem Journal reporters investigating the state's eugenics program learned of the lawsuit and tracked her down. When the series "Against Their Will" ran in late 2002, Riddick's story was a centerpiece.
One of the series' most striking findings was the eugenics program's apparent racial and sexual bias. During the program's first decade, 79 percent of those sterilized were white; by the time Riddick's case was decided, 64 percent of the operations were being performed on black females.
Following the revelations, then-Gov. Mike Easley issued an apology to eugenics victims and their families. Victims were also offered some special health and education benefits.
But the Riddicks and others pushed for monetary reparations.
In October of 2008, Riddick traveled from Georgia to testify before a legislative committee, which recommended giving each victim $20,000. Running for governor, Beverly Perdue vowed to get the funding but, once elected, she ran headlong into a $4.6 billion budget gap.
In 2009, Perdue and the Senate set aside $250,000 for the newly created Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation to identify victims and develop a plan to compensate them. Later that year, Riddick returned to Raleigh for the dedication of a historical marker a block from where the decision was made to sterilize her.
This March, Perdue created the five-member task force. When it held a public hearing on June 22, Riddick and her son were there.
Trembling with hurt and rage, Riddick posed her existential question to the panel, then answered it herself.
"It doesn't matter what you think I'm worth," she said, almost spitting the words. "It's what I think I'm worth. There's nothing that the state of North Carolina can do to justify what they did to me – what they did to these other victims."
Taking his mother's place at the microphone, Tony Riddick said the eugenics program was nothing short of attempted "genocide."
"What did God ask her to do? He asked her to be prolific. Be fruitful. Go out and multiply, replenish the Earth," he said. "And you took all of that, not just away from her, but from other men and women here in this audience. And you did it for reasons you knew were wrong."
About halfway through the hearing, Gov. Perdue slipped silently into the chamber and took a seat at the back. After listening quietly for several minutes, her brow furrowed, she stood and addressed the victims.
"It's hard for me to accept or to understand or to even try to figure out why these kinds of atrocious acts could have been committed in this country ... and I just came here as a woman, as a mama, and as a grandmama and as governor of this state, quite frankly, to tell you it was wrong," she said. "It makes you wonder who we were as a people during those years. The state of North Carolina is a partner with you in trying to bring awareness and to redress, in some way, however we may, these awful ills ..."
Elaine Riddick listened intently to the governor, then the tears began flowing again. She turned away and bowed her head as her son draped his arm around her shoulders.
The task force delivered a preliminary report to Perdue Aug. 1. Among its recommendations were unspecified "lump sum financial damages" and mental health services for living victims.
"For many citizens, it may be hard to justify spending millions when the state is cutting back on other essential services," the panel wrote in a letter to the governor. "But the fact is, there never will be a good time to redress these wrongs and the victims have already waited too long."
A final report is due Feb. 1, 2012.
Despite her reconstructive surgery, Riddick was never able to have more children.
But she knows she has much for which to be thankful.
She has love in her life. Riddick met Paul Adams about 15 years ago, when he offered to share his table with her at a crowded Waffle House. She and the Air Force retiree – who is bedridden with multiple sclerosis – were married this past January.
She has a 6-year-old grandson, Tony Riddick Jr.
And she has Tony.
"I thank God today that I have my son," she says. "To me, he's a blessing and he's a gift."
After graduating from college, Tony Riddick moved to Hertford, just a few miles from where he and his mother grew up. He is president of his own computer-electronics company.
He has filled his spacious, two-story home with objects of deep personal meaning to him. Against one wall of his living room stands a wooden bust of Miss Peaches; across the way lie a pair of heavy iron slave shackles.
Tony Riddick says he was about 13 when he learned that his mother had been sterilized. He didn't learn about the circumstances of his conception until much later.
About that, he says, "You know, the spirit of God is the authority. And he deemed it necessary that I come in the way that I came in. And because I'm such a firm believer in that, I wouldn't question how he decided to bring me in, because I know it has a greater purpose."
His mother, too, speaks of a divine hand in events.
"I'm on a mission," she says. "And God is using me as an instrument to do his will."
She feels compelled to speak out, not just for herself, but for those who might be too afraid or ashamed to speak for themselves. The task force estimates that as many as 2,000 victims of the state's eugenics program may still be alive.
The apology was a step in the right direction. But Riddick thinks someone should be made to pay for what was done to her and the others.
Her son is confident they will prevail – "because she'll never stop fighting."
Allen G. Breed is a Raleigh, N.C-based national writer for The Associated Press. He can be reached at features(at)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Drought Brides

Child 'Drought Brides' Sold Secretly in Kenya

HABASWEIN, Kenya (TrustLaw) - "It's done in the dark," said Fatuma Ahmed, squatting inside her makeshift stick shelter.
"Some people sell their daughters at a tender age so they can get food. It's common but people are silent about it."
Prolonged drought in northern Kenya has pushed many families, like widow Ahmed and her seven children, toward the outskirts of towns where they are more likely to get food and water.
Aid is in short supply and people are resorting to desperate strategies. It's illegal to marry under the age of 18 in Kenya -- so the phenomenon of "drought brides" is only whispered about.
Child marriage is not unusual is this part of the world.
Many pastoralist communities, like Somalis in Habaswein, believe it is important to marry their girls off when they are young so that their honor, or virginity, is preserved.
Women who do not marry young are seen as flawed and a burden on their family.
"In our culture, girls marry as young as nine," said one local community health worker. "She is forced to marry someone when she is not willing. They are forced by their parents."
Among pastoralist communities, a "dowry," in this case a bride price, is traditionally given to the bride's family in the form of livestock.
"People marry when they have a dowry to pay and everything is in plenty," said Abdi Issak, a local aid worker.
"When it is green, the animals can drink from the water pans. You see it in the faces of the people. Their faces shine because they get enough food in their homes."
But most of the animals have died due to the drought that has affected around 10 million people in the Horn of Africa. The animals' carcasses litter the desert landscape.
Now young girls are being sold, according to locals, for as little as 15,000 Kenyan shillings ($168).
"If he's wealthy, it can go up to 50,000 ($559)," said Ahmed.
Hunger drives the exchange.
"A mother will take a 14-year-old girl out of school and sell her to a man -- even an old man -- to get money to give the other children food," said a local chief. "Some households have 10 children and feeding those children is really hard."
Enrolment in his local primary school has dropped to 210 children from 350 since the drought started to bite last year.
"Over a hundred have been removed because of hunger," he said.
According to the United Nations, only one in five girls in North Eastern Province attend school.
Aid agency World Vision is unable to trace 400 of the 3,060 children it sponsors in the district. Some have been sent to stay with better-off relatives who can feed them. Some are working as maids in people's houses or in food kiosks.
But others are married off "just to make sure that the rest of the family does not die from lack of food," said Jacob Alemu, World Vision's local program manager.
(For more on child marriage, including info-graphics, videos, stories and blogs, visit
(TrustLaw is a global news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation, covering women's legal rights, good governance and pro bono law. Visit
(Reporting by Katy Migiro; Editing by Rebekah Curtis/Emma Batha and Sonya Hepinstall)

This article is fascinating because while child brides are not an uncommon phenomenon in a number of countries, in this particular case, these young girls are being sold for money for food, a basic necessity. Does this make the treatment of women and girls as commodities more acceptable? More palatable? The article points out that the this practice is justified by the fact that young girls frequently marry at a young age, so it is not that unusual.  To me, it seems more like a supply-demand issue. As long as men are willing to pay families for the young female children, families, often struggling to feed their other children, will supply those young female children.  Perhaps its utilitarianism in play?

I just can't accept that we must sell young girls, like we would sell a cookie, a woven basket, a shirt.  These are living, breathing young women. Who is at fault here? Is it the men purchasing these girls for $158? Is it the government not providing adequate basic needs? The families of the girls?