Heather Webb

Heather Webb (Women’s Reproductive Rights Program - WRRP): Heather earned her BA in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2004, and then studied law at the New York Law School in 2008. After Law School, Heather practiced law for nearly three years in the corporate department of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP. At the time of her fellowship, Heather was studying for a Master’s degree in international law at the New York University School of Law with a focus on international human rights law. While at NYU, Heather also worked as an Advocacy Volunteer for MADRE, and an Intern for the Legal Advocacy Program of CONNECT, a domestic violence organization. During the Fall semester, Heather served as a Legal Intern for Human Rights Watch, where she worked for the Disability Rights Researcher/Advocate. After her fellowship she wrote: “Through my fellowship with WRRP, I have learned so much about life from a very different perspective. I have found it amazing how the layers of understanding keep peeling away the longer I stay here and the more I experience in rural Nepal. This experience has been a life-changing one and has reaffirmed my commitment to a career advancing human rights.”


12 Oct

Yesterday, Thursday, October 11, people the world over celebrated the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child, declared by the UN last year.  The focus this kick-off year is ending child marriage and ensuring education of girls.

As the focus of my fellowship with WRRP has been the connection between child marriage and uterine prolapse, and since child marriage is something I have grown committed to fighting, I have compiled some great resources for anyone who, in the wake of International Day of the Girl Child, has become interested to learn more about the issue or inspired to do something to support the cause.

It is estimated that every year 10 million girls around the world are married under the age of 18.  Girls who marry early are more vulnerable to many types of abuseand are less likely to be educated.  Child marriage leads to poor health – including increased likelihood of developing uterine prolapseperpetuates poverty, andstrips women of the decisionmaking power over their own lives.  Child marriage violates the human rights of girls.

Various combinations of cultural practices and social and economic conditions lead to widespread practices of child marriage across the developing world, ranging from famine in Niger or poverty in Ethiopia to the difficulties faced by Syrian refugees or cultural practices in Nepal.  Last year, a haunting documentary titled “Too Young to Wed” produced by National Geographic and photographer Stephanie Sinclair revealed the secret lives of child brides.

Gordon Brown’s report released earlier this year titled “Out of wedlock, into school: combating child marriage through education” identifies 16 countries, including Nepal, in which over half of women marry by age 18.  The Ford Foundation has created an interactive map, which details child marriage practices in 30 developing countries, and many statistics can be found through UNICEF.

Girls Not Brides is a 191 member global partnership of NGOs founded by The Elders which is “committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfil their potential”.  Elders Chair Desmond Tutu has been instrumental in this mission, stating that “if we succeed in empowering girls we will succeed in everything else“.

Two days ago, the UNFPA committed $20 million to reaching those adolescent girls most at risk of child marriage.  On October 11, a high level panel discussion was hosted by UNICEFUN Women, Girls Not Brides, and UNFPA regarding the global problem of child marriage, with participants including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon weighing in.

Earlier this year, Secretary of State Clinton declared ending child marriage a commitment of the U.S., and the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill to eliminate child marriage around the world, initiated by those legislators who understand that the fight against child marriage is important to U.S. foreign policy, and our development goals.

No matter where you are in the world, child marriage affect you.  Tapping into the potential of girls benefits not only their own communities, but society at large because making part of the world better makes the whole world better.

Posted By Heather Webb

Posted Oct 12th, 2012

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