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Gates Foundation

When she was 15, Jobeda Begum came home from school to find out she was getting married. The very next day.

She had no say in the matter. What a moment for a 15-year-old.


All images courtesy of CARE.

"I wanted to study to 12th grade," she said in a new report from CARE. "I wanted to be a teacher. That was back then. It's gone now. It's a dream long gone."

Sadly, Jobeda's story — getting married, dropping out of school, and getting pregnant, all at a very young age — isn't unique.

It's a reality that CARE is committed to changing. In their new report, "Vows of Poverty," the organization is taking a closer look at the 26 countries where girls are more likely to walk down the aisle than attend and complete secondary school. The three countries that come in last? Central African Republic, Chad, and Niger. You can read the full country list here.

Every day, 39,000 young girls — just like Jobeda — suddenly find themselves married.

Some are as young as 8 years old. Can you imagine?

Though child marriage rates are down globally, it's still happening ... a lot.

Early marriages are motivated by economic insecurity, religious and cultural customs, human trafficking, inadequate laws, and more. But regardless of the reasons, it almost always cuts a girl's education short and keeps her from living to her full potential.

That's why the work from CARE, Girls Not Brides, and the Let Girls Learn initiative from first lady Michelle Obama is so important to reducing the practice and allowing girls to choose their own paths in life.

It's not just about the quality of their lives. It's about the quality of our world.

A young woman's income-generating potential increases by 20% for every school year she completes beyond fourth grade. When countries put early marriage before a girl's education, it's a sure way to stay in poverty.

It also keeps our world from being its very strongest.

"When girls cannot go to school and grow up not knowing how to read or write, that denies the world future women engineers, future women doctors, future women business owners, future women presidents," said President Obama. "That sets us all back."

Thankfully, we're in a better position than ever to help change the course of history for millions of girls — and our world. And there's reason to believe it's already happening.

13-year-old Nishi Moni is one of several girls in Bangladesh who may well avoid forced early marriage.

She's been working with a local woman's empowerment group called EKATA on the harmful effects of early marriage. Together, they've been discussing with her parents and urging them not to force their young daughters into the practice.

This is how minds are changed — one at a time.

But we can do more, and we must. Today there are 700 million women who were forced to marry as girls. If nothing more is done, another 500 million will join them by 2050.

Not if we can help it.

It takes just a few seconds to show you're paying attention to millions of girls just like Jobeda and Nishi. Want to support an end to child marriage around the world? Add your name here.

Here's to a smarter, richer, more powerful world where all girls get the chance to shine. We'll all be so much better off for it. <3

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Gates Foundation

Jamal Edwards MBE picked up a camera at 15 and started filming. A few years later, he'd built one of the most successful YouTube channels EVER.

Hi, Jamal. Image via Jamal Edwards.


There's a reason he's considered one of the United Kingdom's most successful young entrepreneurs! He even got to interview Prime Minister David Cameron.

Today, his channel and broadcasting company SBTV highlights underground music artists and is expanding into other content. It's said to have even helped launch the career of radio favorite Ed Sheeran. #Swoon.

Recently, Jamal put his camera in a much different light.

He packed his bags and headed to Nairobi, Kenya, with Action/2015 to talk to some of the creative young people who live there in the slum of Kibera.

I tell you what: They know what's up.

GIFs via action/2015.

Kibera is considered one of the largest slums in the world. Many residents live on less than a few bucks a day. A lot of kids who live there can't afford to go to school or even see a doctor.

You'd think the opportunities in a place like Kibera would be pretty grim, but when you see it — really see it through the eyes of Jamal — it looks a little more hopeful.

They are young people doing what they can to change Kibera. And Jamal helped to document them.

There are young people in Kibera who have founded dance schools with libraries and study rooms.

Dance AND learning! A great combo.

Others are using drama and performance to raise awareness of the issues they face.

Bring on the drama, bring on the change.

They are finding creative ways to break through the barriers that have stopped so many before them. They're paving their own futures — some as young as sixth grade!

These young people know what it's going to take for them to succeed, and they're calling on world leaders to help make it happen.

They've got good timing, too.

World leaders are coming together this year to announce a new set of Global Goals to tackle the most urgent issues of our time: poverty, inequality, and climate change.

Action/2015 is right there to make sure it happens. It's made up of 2,020 organizations around the world — joined by Jamal, Kibera youth, and, hopefully, you.

Because turning words like this around is actually possible: "The problem in Kibera is school dropout. Most girls do get pregnant and drop out from school."

But change has to happen first.

One successful YouTube star isn't going to change the course of history. But all of us together can. Here's how you can take action with Action/2015 and how some of Kibera's young people are doing their part:

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Gates Foundation

There are things that many of us can pick in life, like a career, what we're having for dinner, or a TV channel.

GIF via "Toy Story."


Sometimes, though, you don't have a choice. A lot of us have that in common too.

None of us gets to choose the environment we're born into or what kind of privilege we have (or don't have). It just happens.

It's part of being a person in our big complicated world. It's something we all have in common.

Image via Freedom House/Flickr.

An example: Imagine your home country is in war ... and you have no choice but to escape or risk losing your life.

You don't get a say in that stuff.

That's what has happened to millions of Syrians.

They've had no choice but to get thrown into conflict and turn into a different category: refugee.

The dangerous Syrian conflict is turning millions of lives upside-down as we watch the news from the comfort of our homes. Nearly 3 million Syrians are currently stranded across camps and cities in neighboring countries and 6.5 million are displaced within Syria. Right now.

And for some reason they've lost their identities through it all, now being referred to as things like: refugees, asylum seekers, migrants. Why?

Why not just call them "people"?

It shouldn't take a photograph of a drowned Syrian boy on the shores of the Mediterranean to realize that the people who have been forced to flee their homes are people. They are humans who deserve compassion, respect, and the right to safety.

Maybe it's time we started treating and thinking of refugees as real people ... because they are.

The UN Refugee Agency estimates that 2,500 people have died just this past summer on the journey across the Mediterranean in search of safety. That's 2,500 too many.

They are all people, just like you and me.

On Sept. 30, 2015, our world leaders will gather at the United Nations in New York to discuss the ongoing crisis.

We must call on them to lend support to our fellow people who are fleeing their war-torn countries. If we don't put pressure on them, they have no reason to take it seriously.

Doing one of these two things (or both if you have an extra second!) can be the difference between showing that you care — or don't.

1) Sign this petition from Call Them People addressed to world leaders.

2) Share this post to get the conversation going — and ask your friends to sign.

There are certain parts of life you don't get to have a choice in. But when you have the choice to stand for what's right and help out your fellow humans, will you do it?

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TOMS One for One

When people used to see a woman named Tikka on the streets of Nepal, her head was often faced down toward the ground.

She wasn't trying to be anti-social...


...she just couldn't see or hear anything.

I don't blame her. It was hard to interact!

Tikka was blind and deaf and wasn't able to take care of herself or contribute to her community like she wanted. Luckily, her hero daughter never left her side, making sure Tikka had what she needed every day. And as any caretaker knows, that's an exhausting life.

But Tikka didn't have to be blind. She just didn't know it.

After all, it's hard to know about your options when you don't have any around you. In fact, 80% of all blindness in the world is either preventable or curable — but what happens when the cure isn't available?

In comes Seva.

Down the road in a nearby village, a Seva Eye Camp had set up shop. A neighbor told Tikka's family that there was a mobile surgical center for people who needed access to eye care and to sight-restoring surgeries but lacked the typical resources in the areas they lived in. Areas like remote villages in Nepal.

Tikka and her daughter caught word of the eye camp and walked the distance to check it out. Their world was about to get a whole lot bigger and brighter. She was able to get the 15-minute cataract surgeryshe didn't know she needed.

In just the last 25 years, the Seva Foundation has provided surgery to restore the eyesight of 3.5 MILLION people around the world.

That's a lot — and Tikka was one of them. I love it!

Her smile is the best... and you can see more of it in the video below.

The coolest part? You too can help people like Tikka see again through a TOMS-supported cataract surgery from their Sight Giving Partner, Seva. Your purchase of TOMS eyewear helps restore sight to an individual through sight-saving surgery, prescription glasses or medical treatment.

If you don't need another pair of sunglasses, it's all good. You can also support the Seva Foundation by directly donating to the organization here.

The gift of sight can open up a whole new world and help us all work toward a more equal, productive, and happy time while we're here on this planet ... together.

Tikka knows the power of sight. Her story is quite a special one. Check out her story here: