135k Petitions Call on the U.S. State Department to Implement a Strategy to End Child Marriage!

When I first screened DIFRET in early February, I immediately recognized the profound opportunity we had to build an social impact campaign that would help drive the conversation surrounding the issue of child marriage and influence related policy and reform. DIFRET, executive produced by Angelina Jolie Pitt, is an award-winning feature film about a legal precedent setting court case that outlawed the kidnapping of child brides in Ethiopia.

I have had the privilege of working closely with Mehret Mandefro and Lacey Schwartz of Truth Aid, the incredible team behind the film, to develop an advocacy campaign focused on impacting policy here in the United States. Together, with our campaign partners, we launched a Change.org petition that called upon the U.S. State Department to deliver the Adolescent Girl Strategy, a comprehensive strategy for ending child marriage.

On September 24th, at the U.S. State Department’s inaugural Women and Foreign Policy convening we hand delivered over 135,000 Change.org petition signatures to Ambassador Catherine Russell, U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women’s Issues.

In her speech, the Ambassador thanked DIFRET’s advocacy campaign and responded to the petition’s request directly, stating:

“Thanks to their support and the work of so many of you in this room, we plan to launch our Adolescent Girl Strategy later this fall and we look forward to working with each and every one of you to carry it forward.”

You can watch the video clip from the event here.

Together, with our dedicated petition partners, including the Girls Not Brides U.S. Coalition, Ms. Magazine and the Global Fund for Women, we have been able to ensure that the film has a significant impact on the issue of child marriage  by accelerating the delivery of the Adolescent Girls Strategy.

As I returned to New York the following day, I was thrilled to learn that United Nations had not only accepted the Sustainable Development Goals, but also for the first time included ending child marriage as a worldwide priority. The petition delivery and SDG goals mark a major milestone for the DIFRET social action campaign and the global efforts to end early and forced marriage.

As we prepare for the U.S. theatrical release of DIFRET on October 23rd, we are eager to continue to push the issue of child marriage to the forefront of international headlines. To do this we are hoping to not just raise awareness for the prevalence of child marriage, but also reinforce that change is possible. We can change culture and influence policy and law, DIFRET is proof of that.

Join the filmmakers and special guests, including the real life lawyer in the film, Meaza Ashenafi, the real life Hirut, Aberash Bekele, and DIFRET actress Tizita Hagere in theaters across the country. Find a screening near you and join us in theaters this fall.


By: Emma Ho

Emma’s strong background in PR and marketing as well as her passion for documentary film enable her to provide multi-disciplinary solutions to clients at Picture Motion. Emma recently completed a Master’s Degree in Media Studies at The New School with a concentration in new media, documentary, and film. After receiving an Honors BA degree in Art History at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, Emma pursued a graduate certificate in Public Relations at NYU. She is most interested in film centered on social issues and has been an asset to the Picture Motion campaigns.