Charleswood School Grade 7 student Carley Shaver recently learned that if she was living in Sudan right now, she might already be married.
The 13-year-old says it is hard to imagine herself, or any of her friends, being married at their age and not having a say in the matter.
"I don’t know if they would really get much of a choice of who they could marry either, and that is tough for somebody to be going through those emotions at that age," Shaver says.
Early childhood marriage was just one of the topic’s discussed last week at a girl’s rights themed education program called 411 TV: Because I Am A Girl that was held at Charleswood School.
The Toronto-based program is co-organized by Plan Canada and the 411 Initiative for Change organization. It is currently in the midst of a tour of Canadian schools that expects to reach more than 10,000 girls through the series.
Shaver was one of approximately 50 Grade 7 students that participated in the 70-minute program that featured music, videos and interactive theatre to share stories about girls across the world.
While the topics dealt specifically with issues for girls like access to education, self-esteem and violence against girls, there were also boys in attendance that 13-year-old Maya Amos says was a great idea.
"I think it’s good that boys would know that kind of stuff about girls because they might be teasing them and now they know how it feels," Amos says.
Grade 7 teacher Erin Daniels says that the message definitely got through to boys that attended the session.
"The boys said that fundraising towards charities that are aimed at women is something they should be doing," she says.
"They also said that in terms of behaviour that they would be more respective and mindful to girls in the school."
Tamara Dawit, executive director of the 411 initiative, says the response has been great so far because the program shows how to relate to girls in different countries.
"Even with the global case studies looking at girls in either Sudan or Haiti, there are families from those communities living right here in Winnipeg," Dawit says.
"So the issues they are facing they may have transported with them or are similar to issues girls face here."
Dawit says the format of the program is intended to be upbeat and entertaining. It features a live performance by Canadian hip-hop artist Masia One.
Dawit says the interactive nature of the program engages students because it uses pop culture and people who the kids think are cool, she says.
Ranya Harb says that the program has inspired her to do more in their community and help raise awareness of issues that girls face around the world.
"I would love to put on a bake sale to raise money for girls in other countries, like Haiti," Harb says.