We are now in the height of summer, a season when families are free to spend time together while schools are not in session. Some families may choose to remain in town while others may cross the world to explore new places or visit loved ones abroad whom they haven’t seen since before the pandemic.
For some children and young adults, this time out of school can also carry with it the risk of an unwanted engagement or marriage. Some of those vacations or trips to visit relatives could serve as a cover story for what was in fact a plan to pressure or force an individual into an unwanted engagement and get them far away from the people that the student would normally turn to for help. The freedom from a regimented school day also means losing connection with trusted adults who are often the first to detect and recognize when a child may be facing a crisis.
The sad fact is, when schools reopen in the fall, some students may not return. That is why it is critical that the adults who play such a crucial role in nurturing and protecting children during the school year also follow up on any students who are missing from class, without explanation or notice, the next year. Teachers, counselors, and social workers play an incredibly valuable role in the prevention of forced marriage as they may be the only independent outside interaction certain children have and their only connection to support.
If you work with children and young adults, especially in schools, we invite you to learn more about the warning signs of forced marriage. We have resources available that will teach you how to determine whether someone might be experiencing an unwanted marriage and provide support and referrals.
You can read and share the resources in the Forced Marriage Initiative’s toolkit for service providers. It includes our Tip Sheet for Educators and our new, comprehensive Framework for Identifying and Responding to Cases of Forced Marriage.
If you are worried about someone right now and would like confidential assistance, please contact FMI@tahirih.org.