Most of you know that I have a 15 year old daughter….I know…God Help me! To be honest, she pretty darn entertaining and fun, with just the odd times that I want to kick her in the shins and run. She hates when I brag about her, I’m an embarrassment, such an obnoxious “mom” thing to do, but I’m going to be indulgent for a minute. Besides, I have a teen, I embarrassment her by merely being alive.
Kaya came across a story a few months ago through the support work we do with Tahirih Justice Center (tahirih.org), a network of pro bono lawyers that protect women and girls fleeing gender based violence and sex trafficking. One of their other major missions is helping draft new legislation in 25 states to raise the minimum marriage age from 0 to 18. Yep, you read that right, 25 states in the United States allow child marriage and forced child marriage under the age of 12 years old and in fact, have NO age floor! The only states in the union with 18 as minimum marriage age are Virginia, New York and Texas, and they all just passed new laws in the passed 18 months thanks in large amounts to Tahirih and their efforts.
Kaya found out that in NJ, the state she was born in (I was shooting All My Children in NY at the time), the governor Chris Christie had just vetoed a bill that would raise the marriage age in that state from 0 to 18. She was floored, as were we all! Well, Kaya decided to do something about it because she couldn’t believe that everyone she talked to knew nothing about what was going on in our own backyards. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do with it at first, but she decided to write an open letter to Chris Christie urging him to withdraw his veto. As she started researching facts, she became even more frustrated with the injustice and it started to turn into an op-ed. Now granted, she’s a kid, so she second guessed herself several thousand times. That actually sounded ridiculous as I typed it, because you don’t have to be a kid to second guess your work several thousand times a day- I’m queen of it! But she would work on it, then walk away grumbling about it being a waste of time because no one but me and the family was going to read it and then immerse herself in a 20 mins of Snap Chatting- to which I grumbled (loudly) back, “Why don’t you use that stupid phone for something useful and spread your story there?!” POOF- Young Mind Blown! And like that, the idea for #StillAGirl write- in and awareness campaign was born!
Ok, so,baby step forward, she she had created a place to share her story via her own social media, but she had a harder time deciding if she should send the article directly to Chris Christie, or go bigger and send it to the NJ Star Ledger, or, dare she try the Huffington Post? She has always loved Teen Vogue for it’s socially conscious stories and encouragement of teen girls to get involved in the world, to be activists and raise their voices in positive ways to effect social change, but she was scared to death to reach out and pitch her article to them because, in her words, they are THE. Mother. Of. All. Teen. Magazines… Fear of rejection on a massive level? I feel ya sistah, my business is fraught with it, but rejection doesn’t kill you, I promise, you won’t die! Your ego may take a hit, but it just makes you learn to regroup, retool and refine, then try again. After all, if Thomas Edison had given up after his 10th failure we’d all still be sitting in the dark. Go big or stay in bed and watch Netflix all day I always say!
Anyway, after a crapload of cajoling, she mustered the guts to pitch her story to Teen Vogue, and low and behold, they sent her a contract as a freelance writer and published her story! I swear to God, I’ve never been more proud!! Proud of the outcome, but honestly, far more proud of her tenacity, and finding her confidence even when she feared her words wouldn’t matter and no one would care. When she didn’t think one 15 year old girl could make a difference, wanted to give up and walk away 1000 times. And, when she took this “baby” that she had nurtured, developed, slaved over and cared for, and shoved it out into the world hoping for the best, but with the fear of the unknown, of possibly watching it crash and burn. Hmmm…..sounds oddly akin to parenting.
I think the biggest lesson for both of us is something Dr.Denis Waitley said; “There are 2 primary choices in life: To accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility to change them.” And so….An activist was born.
Please help by standing with her to protect these vulnerable girls and challenge the representatives in your state to draft new legislation that makes 18 the minimum marriage age! Go to kayacallahan.com to see if your state is on the list, then take a minute to enter your zip code to find your states representative’s email, and send the copy and paste-able pre-written letter, urging their support.
It would mean the world to us to Please Tweet, Instagram, Snapchat or share this graphic to raise awareness.