How these Kirkland teens are bringing global awareness to child marriage

KIRKLAND — They may still be in middle school, but two Kirkland eighth graders are already getting global recognition for their work as amateur filmmakers bringing awareness to child marriage.

What started as a homework assignment quickly became an online appeal to put an end to the global practice. And at just 13 years old, Kirkland Eastside Prep eighth graders Eva Chen and Alice Feng recognize the harms connected to a child marriage and the challenges in ending it altogether.

“The whole experience, this ongoing problem, has resonated pretty deeply in us,” Eva told KIRO 7. “Now that I’m definitely more informed, I think I in the future, I really want to take action about it.”

It’s not a topic they initially sought out. Rather, they came across during research for a class project about population growth.

They said they were stunned by the number of child marriages that occur every day -- more than 40,000.

So, they made a video to raise awareness, using only an iPad to create it. The video was edited by Alice, while all the artwork was drawn by Eva.

“I was staying up really late, and my parents were knocking on my door and being like, ‘you need to go to sleep,’” Eva recalled. “But I just wanted to draw.”

Her artwork details the generational impact of child marriages, with higher birth rates and significant lags in education and earnings, most often in for girls.

“So it’s just a continuous cycle of birth and poverty,” Alice said. “You can’t leave even if you want it to.”

“I can’t assume that every child marriage is controlling and unhealthy,” she continued. “But I can say that once you marry a child off to an adult, especially in low income countries -- where girls are more often seen as property or objects, there’s definitely a large power gap.”

They tell KIRO 7 that even as eighth graders, they recognize their own educational privilege, and want that for other young women across the globe.

That’s what motivated them to get their video out into the world.

“I realized that we did have the tools and skills to get something -- a message -- out there,” Alice said. “And I think realizing that and achieving that is something that’s distinctive in my life and I’m pretty proud of it.

They submitted their video to an international competition called the “World of 8 Billion” contest. They eventually won, beating out more than 3,000 other entries from all over the world.

The girls say they’re grateful for this win, but that there’s still work to do. And that begins in the classroom.

“Supporting girls’ education is vital as well,” Alice said. “This will grant them more reproductive autonomy, income and control over their futures.”

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