Freedom of Expression and Choice

Child marriage is an issue and concern all over the world. Fueled by gender inequality, poverty, and inhumane social norms, child marriage impacts over 650 million women and creates devastating consequences globally. In Afghanistan, child marriages persist at rates that suggest at least 1 in 3 young girls will be married before they turn 18.

Born in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, Sonita Alizadeh fled to Iran with her family to escape their dangerous daily lives. While pursuing her education, Alizadeh saw her friends disappear from the classroom one by one as they were forced to marry. Although deeply troubling, this was not a surprise. Sonita’s own family had tried to sell her into marriage when she was 10 years old, and then again when she was 16. In response to her impending marriage and the feelings of so many of her friends, Sonita wrote the song “Brides for Sale,” which was posted on YouTube and quickly went viral. The video was seen by the nonprofit organization Strongheart Group, who reached out to Sonita and then facilitated her move to the United States for school at Wasatch Academy in Utah.

In this lesson, students will learn how art and music can serve as a catalyst for defending and promoting human rights, as they come to better understand that child marriages occur everywhere, are impacted by economics and cultural norms, and need to be taught about and acted on accordingly. After reading Sonita’s biography and watching “Brides for Sale,” students, through role-playing and writing exercises, will examine child marriage from a child’s perspective. In the “Become a Defender” portion of the lesson, students will write letters to Sonita, to elected officials, and to the Girls Not Brides organization working to end child marriage.

Because all the activities involve independent or group research that can be done online, this lesson plan fits into either virtual or in-person classrooms, with opportunities for discussion and collaboration on Zoom or with classmates.