Meet Arezo and Alaia
Arezo, a 13-year-old school girl is devastated, she is at risk of being one of those 12 million girls forced to marriage yearly. She knows, that not only her childhood, but also her education will come to an end, as she is forced to marry a 50-year-old man as his third wife.
Arezo has never been able to understand why girls are not valued, why she is not able to pursue her dream. Her parents are sad, but they are too poor to be able to continue her education. Also, the pressure from the community is getting bigger, neighbors are asking, when will Arezo be married.
Arezo has so many question burning in her mind, but no one to ask, girl should not question or ask too much. It is best to be silent and to obey.
Alaia is a 15-year-old girl, an immigrant living in Finland. She has been quite happy, even she has been wondering why she is not able to have the same freedom as her Finnish friends. She has been wondering many things that are different in her family and community. Alaia and her sister’s life is very restricted while her brothers may go as they please. But, she is not to question or speak out loud her thoughts. Lately she has been nervous, her family is planning a trip to their origin home country. This trip seems to be special, and Alaia might not return back home. Her family is happy, but Alaia is afraid. It seems there is not a soul to turn for help.
Alaia’s school teacher, Pekka, has noticed that Alaia has been different for some time, he is nervous and quiet. Pekka feels that something is not right, but he has been unable to get Alaia to open up. Pekka is sad, because he doesn’t know what to do.
But, we have a vision for a solution. And we are working on it.
Arezo’s school is Encourage partner and Arezo and her family gets sponsored trough Encourage impact program, that offers a nest egg and money for necessity products for Arezo, pays her schooling and gives a monthly support for the family, so they do not need to marry off Arezo.
In the Encourage program and with the help of Encourage’s partner organisation, Arezo and her family gets support for their decision to educate her. They meet other Encourage families, learn about harms of early marriages and about the importance of girl’s education for the whole community. It relieves the pressure of Arezo’s family’s decision that some community members are putting them under, because they think Arezo should be married already.
Encourage also invites Arezo to the invitation and women only Encourage community that works globally online and locally offline. There girls and women are able to ask those questions that they are not allowed in their communities. Arezo is happy and she finds the courage to believe in herself, and to continue her education, she has support and new friends to move forward with.
Alaia’s teacher decides to have a conversation with EncourageAI tool that their school uses for guidance and help for situations when teachers are suspecting domestic violence, or girls being under threat of forced marriages. Alaia seems to have the typical symptoms of victims being forced to marriage.
Alaia’s teacher tells Alaia about EncourageAI. One day at school Alaia looks up EncourageAI chat and starts a conversation with it. All of the sudden, she notices that she has opened the pandora’s box of years of anxiety and questions that have been troubling her mind. The AI tool assists her to contact a person from the Encourage network.
Alaia is invited to the Encourage community and she gets a safety net and support, she finds tools to start healing herself and she makes new friends, one of them is Arezo. Alaia finds courage to stand against her family and community, she refuses to get married and decides to continue her education. With the help of Encourage’s partner network, and the Encourage community and AI tool she begins her journey towards empowerment and independency.
We encourage education. We encourage gender equality. We encourage empowerment.
Arezo and Alaia are fictional, yet thir story is based on the actual real-life situation of tens of millions of girls. Our solution is aimed for helping those girls and women in need. (Photo credits: Ambar Simpang, Mentatdgt, Aldo Picaso).