W&J junior travels to Ghana to advocate against child marriage

Created: September 25, 2018
Last Updated: January 13, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Sept. 25, 2018)—Gabriella Faddool ’20 of Tobyhanna, Pa., traveled to Ghana during summer 2018 to investigate and advocate against child marriages happening in the country.

Gabriella, an international studies major and Spanish minor at Washington & Jefferson College (W&J), felt called to Africa after watching a YouTube documentary in 2017 about a survivor of child marriage from Nigeria. She decided to do more research, and found that Ghana’s national marriage rate for children younger than 15 is currently at 21 percent.

Gabriella wanted to hear directly from the Ghanaian people about how this affects their nation and communities, and what can be done about it. She took advantage of W&J’s Magellan Project and traveled to Ghana herself to conduct interviews, using an interview structure she created with W&J psychology Professors Elizabeth Bennett, Ph.D. and Lynn A. Wilson, Ph.D. Once in Ghana, she talked to teachers, parents, politicians, healthcare professionals, victims’ advocates, and survivors of child marriage.

“I heard a lot of ideas from teachers and parents on why this shouldn’t continue,” Gabriella said. “Most of the answers were very similar: that [the children] go through a lot of abuse through these marriages, and that some go into it willingly because they are in poverty and need to sustain themselves, or they are trying to escape abusive parents.”

Gabriella also met with political organizations that advocate against child marriage, and learned that a lack of resources—like restricted access to education and poor civil infrastructure—contributes to the cycle. Within the government, the Ending Child Marriage Unit is working to combat these issues, and has a goal to end child marriage by 2030.

At a hospital and a school in Katanga, Gabriella saw the lack of resources first hand. The hospital was overcrowded, looking more like a house than a medical facility. It lacked supplies, notably maternity materials essential to care for child brides who become pregnant at a young age. The school was damaged during storms and had not been repaired, which discouraged students from attending. For both organizations, many children have to travel long distances to access their services.

Gabriella donated to both the hospital and the school, and hopes to return one day to aid in building up the infrastructure in Katanga and other areas of Ghana.

“I want to come back, help donate, help them put things together, maybe provide funds for more infrastructure, and maybe in terms of the city, I can write petitions or publicly speak against child marriage,” she said.

Gabriella’s long-term goal is to advocate for human rights, attend law school, and become a human rights attorney. She said W&J is making that possible through an excellent education and dedicated support from faculty and staff. She encourages others to follow their passions at W&J.

“Take advantage of all the opportunities here,” she said. “They are there. You just have to go for it.”

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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