We need to work with the Legislators and policy makers to develop and implement national laws that protect girls from harmful practices. Governments can protect girls from harmful practices by strengthening legal provisions, harmonizing statutory and customary law, and effectively enforcing laws. National strategies and plans are an opportunity to address harmful practices, including but not limited to child marriage.

We need to engage families, communities and leaders to protect girls from harmful practices. Parents and community members, including men, are often authorized as the primary decision-makers on the fate of the girl to enter into union as a child. Facilitating discussions centered on the the importance and value of educating the girl child to the community  will bring  about behavioral change among these stakeholders through awareness raising discussions about the value of educating girls and the negative consequences of child marriage can change social norms that promote child marriage.

When we empower adolescent girls at risk of child marriage, or already married, to express their views and exercise their choices, they make greater impact. Girls must be fully informed about the consequences of child marriage and learn to assert their own interests. Providing fundamental life skills education and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights will be girls’ greatest tools in building support networks while remaining in school. This will promote their learning capabilities and raise their self-value and self-esteem. This in turn will lead them to make informed decisions and negotiate how they live on their own terms.

Strengthen the availability, accessibility, quality and responsiveness of services for adolescent girls. Improved access to quality education and health (including but not limited to sexual and reproductive health), child protection and social protection services leads to better outcomes for adolescent girls. These services can support girls in preventing adolescent pregnancy, continuing their education, and building their own future.

If efforts are not accelerated, more than 150 million girls will marry before their eighteenth birthday by 2030.

“If a girl of my age gets married, it’s not good. I have a different perspective from many. Going to school doesn’t spoil a girl – quite the contrary.”

Aydoudate Abdoulaye, 15, from Menaka, Mali

Child marriage refers to any formal marriage or informal union between a child under the age of 18 and an adult or another child. While the prevalence of child marriage has decreased worldwide – from one in four girls married a decade ago to approximately one in five today –the practice remains widespread. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals call for global action to end this human rights violation by 2030.

Child marriage is often the result of entrenched gender inequality, making girls disproportionately affected by the practice. Globally, the prevalence of child marriage among boys is just one fifth that among girls.

Child marriage robs girls of their childhood and threatens their lives and health. Girls who marry before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence and less likely to remain in school. They have worse economic and health outcomes than their unmarried peers, which are eventually passed down to their own children, further straining a country’s capacity to provide quality health and education services.

Child brides often become pregnant during adolescence, when the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth increases – for themselves and their infants. The practice can also isolate girls from family and friends and exclude them from participating in their communities, taking a heavy toll on their physical and psychological well-being.

Because child marriage impacts a girl’s health, future and family, it imposes substantial economic costs at the national level, too, with major implications for development and prosperity.

Addressing child marriage requires recognition of the factors that enable it. While the roots of the practice vary across countries and cultures, poverty, lack of educational opportunities and limited access to health care perpetuate it. Some families marry their daughters off early to reduce their economic burden or earn income. Others may do so because they believe it will secure their daughters’ futures or protect them.

 

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