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The Yellitaare Foundation Gala: Eradicate Forced And Early Marriages

Sophie Elkus |
October 31, 2011 | 8:24 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter


The Yellitaare Foundation’s “Eradicate Forced and Early Marriages” benefit gala on Oct. 26 brought together dozens of world leaders and influential speakers to facilitate dialogue and work toward ending the unethical practice. Hosted at the Radisson Hotel, the gala drew USC students, teachers and guests, and encouraged a rich roundtable discussion of child marriage.

In Niger, 76.6 percent of girls marry before the age of 18. In Chad, the number is 71.6 percent, and Bangladesh falls closely behind. Yellitaare attacked this issue head-on at the conference. The gala was held in partnership with African Empowerment and the Ministry of Senegalese Living abroad, the USC French and Italian departments and the UCLA Women’s Health and Empowerment Center. The goals were to create a synergy of collaborative discussion and strategies to combat early marriage, with the target of completely eliminating these marriages in West African by the year 2025.

Attendees at the gala included African First ladies and ministers of health, education, women and family affairs, as well as representatives from the United Nationals Agencies and international non-profit organizations. Notable speakers like Aida Mbodj, the Senagalese Minister of Family and Women Organizations, Chantal Compaore, the First Lady of Burkina Faso and president of the foundation Suka, and Madam Mariama Mane Sanha, the First Lady of Guinea-Bissau were on hand to provide opinions.

Compaore’s speech was especially memorable: an account of the importance of ending early marriages for the mental, physical and emotional sake of the girl at hand. Given in French, she urged listeners to take action. It was clear that she, similarly to every speaker, had a heartfelt passion for the cause and a focused dedication.

True to the foundation of the Yellitaare beliefs, the conference was set up as a discussion based event with plenty of opportunities in the schedule to allow and encourage meeting and talking about the issue.  Student and teacher volunteers were present, which provided a community feel.

Yellitaare focuses on using film and technology as a tool to shed light on social justice and human rights issues. The organization’s belief that film is a tool that addresses the “collective subconscious” guides it in targeting human rights through a technological medium. This keeps Yellitaare especially up to date with the younger generation.

The name “yellitaare” means “empowerment” in the African language of Fulaani, representing a primary goal of the organization. In addition to focusing on forced and early marriages, the foundation also has an arts initiative and addresses landmine and environmental issues in Africa. It looks to educate youth on HIV/AIDS prevention and provide mental health help. Those looking for volunteer opportunities or to donate to the worthwhile cause can visit http://www.yellitaare.org/YELLITAARE-donate.php for more information.

Reach Sophie here.


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