And it is precisely because so much is at stake that we all must take action now…and take action again …and again…and again. I urge you to support the groups you heard from here tonight: International Women's Health Coalition, Family Planning Association of Nepal and of course Planned Parenthood of New York City and its international arm, Margaret Sanger Center International. Visit us online at www.ppnyc.org to stay informed and take action through our on-line activist network.
Let your elected representatives know that you share our vision for the world we want to live in. Thank you.
Adrienne Germain: Thank you Lucy and thanks to all of you for your very compelling remarks. I think everyone here has voted with hands, so to speak. I hope we can have at least 20 minutes of questions and comments from all of you.
Before I open the floor entirely, I would like to thank one special guest for being here and for her very stalwart support for all of us and for women around the world: that is Jane Fonda, who is one of the most dedicated advocates for women's and girls health and rights that I know. So I thought perhaps Jane, you might be the first one to start off our discussion.
Jane Fonda: Thank you. I want to thank all of you for the most amazing, inspiring, motivational, disturbing presentations. They were very very powerful. I hope every one of us can get at least twenty new friends registered to vote and make sure they get to the polls. I mean, we need a revolution. Regime change.
As you know, I work with adolescent girls and boys in my state of Georgia, and have worked with the International Women's Health Coalition and especially in Nigeria. I would like to know whether child brides-how extensive child brides, child marriage is in South Asia and how you view that as a problem in regards to AIDS and what to do about it.
Dr. Bista: Actually, marriage at a very early age is quite common, in Nepal, India and Bangladesh also. And when a young girl is married who doesn't know anything about her body and her body is not developed and even her partner' behavior, maybe, is not according to the need or the medically permitted thing. They do not know, because there is less information, less access to services, in that case, if they are infected by any STI or any other diseases, there is the chance that it will transmit and it will spread.
Ms. Germain: Perhaps to add to that, after so many years of work in Bangladesh, we are seeing the age of marriage go up. By investing in girls at a young age, supporting and encouraging their families to allow them to go to school, there are so many different strategies that we all now know about and that have been tried on a small scale but that really need to be increased and enhanced a great deal.
One of the most stunning memories I have from this most recent trip to India with Kati, it occurred actually after she left, I was with a bunch of girls again in the same area of Delhi that we had visited together and there were some very young ones there. And ultimately after we were having all this conversation and lots of laughter about marriage and engagement and sex and whatever, I finally decided I would ask how old this very small girl was, who had been quite talkative and all. She was 12. The other girls told me she had been already engaged to be married. So I asked her, did she know her husband? And she said, yes, I do. I said, well, do you like him? And she said, well, you know, I don't really know yet. But the girls around her gave her such sustained support. It was so clear to me that there was nothing this little girl could do about it. She is engaged and she will be married as soon as she menstruates.