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Guest blogger: Sri Muppidi, Girl Up Teen Advisor

Sweets, flowers, saris, and bindis. According to the Hindu priest, it was an auspicious day for a wedding. As the guests were taking their seats, Lakshmi began shivering behind her crimson veil. Tears rolled down her cheeks, and her hands shook uncontrollably. She was alone.

At 12 years old, Lakshmi was married off to an older man she never met before. Lakshmi is only one of the 10 million girls that are married before they are 18. That’s 25,000 girls every day … 19 girls every minute. Child marriage is a global issue, cutting across different nations, cultures, and religions.

As a teenage girl, I know girls my age aren’t ready to be wives. By being forced into marriage at such an early age, girls are at a higher risk of having complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Child brides can be exposed to dangerous diseases and may suffer from domestic violence and sexual abuse. Additionally, child marriage curtails a girl’s education, continuing this cycle of poverty.

But we can change this. Raise your voice and bring attention to the plight of child brides, calling immediate action to end this practice.

Support Girl Up and Girls Not Brides by writing a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (the link takes you to an easy-to-follow template). In a recent speech, Secretary Clinton stated that ending child marriage is a “personal commitment” of hers and added that the United States will “intensify our diplomacy and development work to end child marriage.”

As the UN’s very first International Day of the Girl comes up on October 11, take action and write to Secretary Clinton to make a difference in the millions of girls worldwide!

Sri Muppidi is a senior at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, California, where she is actively engaged in many public service activities to include her role as a Girl Up Teen Advisor.

Before working to raise awareness within her community about child marriage and other issues affecting girls around the world, Sri raised thousands of dollars to build water retention systems in Tanzania. The “life-changing visit” to Tanzania was part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project.  Sri envisions a world where girls have an equal opportunity to be educated, safe, healthy and positioned to be future leaders. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, biking, reading, and among other things, tasting delicious cupcakes.

Girl Up is an innovative campaign of the United Nations Foundation. We give American girls the opportunity to become global leaders and channel their energy and compassion to raise awareness and funds for United Nations programs that help some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls. For more information about Sri and other Girl Up Teen Advisors’ work in their communities, click here.