Student's life experience sparks connection with One Billion Rising movement

February 12, 2014

One Billion Rising, a movement dedicated to end violence against women, takes place on Feb. 14, and CU-Boulder students, faculty and staff are invited to attend several campus performances and discussions at the UMC from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. 

One of those performances, a theatrical performance called “Child Bride,” will be performed by CU-Boulder student, Lima Esslam, a senior pursuing a degree in women and gender studies.

Esslam’s performance will reflect her experience growing up in Afghanistan and coming to understand the pressure that young women face in accepting offers for arranged marriage. Esslam recently went back and forth to Afghanistan for family weddings, and during these experiences, she became more aware of the reality that young Afghan women face.

“I found out more about how girls are getting married at a young age, and I read about it and did more research,” said Esslam, who also volunteers at CU-Boulder's  Women’s Resource Center. “About 57 percent of girls who are under the age 16 are forced into marrying an older man.”

Esslam explained that arranged marriages have not historically represented such an age gap. But because there are less young men present during years of war, more families are offering their young daughters to marry older men. Additionally, marriage symbolizes both honor and security for the bride and her family.

“It’s a cultural thing. Even if a girl receives an education and goes out on her own, she might not be safe. She might get kidnapped,” Esslam said. “Then there would be a spot on the family’s honor.”

Along with her parents and five brothers, she came to the United States in 2004, spending the latter part of her childhood in Thornton. Looking at both CU-Boulder and Denver campuses, she chose Boulder for its “refreshing” environment.

“When I came to visit here, it felt like I wanted to study,” Esslam said. She hopes to work with organizations interested in women’s safety and women’s education. Returning to Afghanistan, she said, is part of her long-term goal.

“It could be dangerous for me, but I’m not really scared,” said Esslam. “I could build up a dozen lives there.”

Esslam’s performance for “Child Bride” was inspired by a class she took, called “Performing Voices of Women.” During the semester, each student created four theatrical performances to share with fellow classmates on a given topic. After Esslam’s final performance, originally titled “Child Marriage,” theater professor Beth Osnes encouraged her to connect with One Billion Rising.

“Education is freedom,” said Esslam. “It helps women get out of the box and break all the barriers. It gives them the freedom to share their voice.”

To see Esslam’s performance among others, RSVP at colorado.edu/odece/eventscal.html to help planners accommodate. More information can be found on Facebook and Twitter – and attendees are encouraged to join the media sphere: @CUBoulder, @BoulderColorado, @BVSDcolorado, and the hashtags #CUBoulder and #1BillionRising. CU-Boulder is partnering with the City of Boulder and the Boulder Valley School District to host the One Billion Rising events.

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