Child marriage is a violation of children’s rights. Despite being prohibited by international law, it continues to rob millions of girls around the world of their childhood. It forces them out of education and into a life of poor prospects, with increased risk of violence, abuse, ill health or early death. 15 million girls marry before the age of 18 each year, the equivalent of 1 every 2 seconds.
Evidence shows that education is key to delaying marriage, giving girls more choices and opportunities, and enabling them to develop their full potential. In developing countries, the more education a girl receives, the less likely she is to be married before the age of 18 and the more likely she is to delay pregnancy and childbirth.
the more education a girl receives, the less likely she is to be married before the age of 18 and the more likely she is to delay pregnancy and childbirth
Ending early or forced marriages
Because I am a Girl works at local, national and international levels to enable millions of girls to avoid early and forced marriage, stay in school and benefit from a quality education. Working in partnership with NGOs, UN agencies and Member States, we led the development and implementation of influencing plans that secured the first procedural resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly on ending child marriage. We have also shared our community-based knowledge and experience of child marriages to affect policy at regional and national levels.
At local level we partner with communities to end early marriage such as in Zimbabwe where we have worked with the Zimbabwe National Chiefs’ Council to empower people to resist the socio-economic pressures that lead to forced marriage and to enforce the message of the importance of equal rights and girls’ education.
Understanding social norms
Our work to combat child marriage is based on our experience and understanding of the social norms and inequalities that drive it. It also builds on the key principles of our Child-Centred Community Development strategy.
Our unique programmes engage with children, their families, the wider community, civil society, state and governments. Our evidence-based approach empowers girls with the information, skills, and services they need to be healthy, educated and safe. Our initiatives holistically address the issue of forced marriage by addressing the drivers of the problem at all possible levels.
All girls have a right to a quality education that does not reinforce gender stereotypes and is relevant to their needs, aspirations and promotes gender equality and human rights. Learning in a safe and supportive environment enables girls to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to claim their rights. It gives them the chance to reach their full potential and to assert their autonomy, helping them to make free and informed decisions about their life, including whether, when and who to marry, along with decisions affecting their sexual and reproductive health. Whereas early and forced marriage interrupts girls’ education and severely restricts their life choices.
We support girls so they can receive a quality primary education and can transition to, and successfully complete, secondary school. We enable girls to have more choices in life, to allow them to play an active role in their community and to break intergenerational cycles of poverty, insecurity and ill health.