Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation
More than ever before, there is global awareness of child marriage and its implications for both human rights and a range of development outcomes. The marriage of a girl, often to a much older spouse, effectively ends a girl’s childhood, curtails her education, increases her risk of domestic violence, and puts her at risk for early, frequent and very high-risk pregnancies. Her lack of mobility, education, and economic opportunities also means that her family is more likely to be poor and unhealthy. Child marriage is both a cause and a consequence of poverty and gender inequality – reflecting and reinforcing limited economic opportunities and discriminatory gender norms.
While rates of child marriage have declined over recent decades in many regions of the world, the practice remains stubbornly prevalent in many places – particularly where crises and conflicts are present, and where poverty and/or gender inequality are rampant. According to the latest statistics from the United Nations, about 37,000 girls are married each day.1 With a larger youth population than any time in history, we now also have the greatest number of married girls and girls at-risk of child marriage than ever before. If current trends continue, more than 140 million girls will be married by 2020. If we are to enable the adolescent girls of this and the next generation to live up to their potential, we must end the practice of child marriage and support married girls to be all that they can be.
Fortunately, we have more interest and investment in this issue than ever before. There is a desire by many governments, foundations, and private sector enterprises to put more targeted policies and financial and technical resources toward prevention and mitigation on the ground.
Many organizations, activists, researchers, and donors have developed, implemented, and evaluated programs to prevent child marriage and to mitigate its harmful effects for married girls and their families. Through these efforts, we know more now than ever before in terms of how and where to concentrate our efforts to bring an end to the practice of child marriage and support married girls, and in so doing, empower a new generation of girls and women.