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    child marriage

November 18, 2016

Desmond Tutu: Child marriage harms our human family

Millions of girls are married as children. This fact harms our human family and reminds us how deeply biased our world still is against mothers, sisters and daughters. We now have a moral duty to end one of humankind’s most destructive traditions. Experts say it is feasible in one generation.

Maybe because I am a man, I have spent much of my life ignorant of the scale and awfulness of child marriage. But, in recent years, I have talked to many girls and women who have educated me. It wasn’t until my retirement that I realised that one in three women in the developing world is married before the age of 18, or understood what they risk as a result.

Across the world, girls are powerless to choose when they marry, to whom, or whether they marry at all. The day of their marriage is the day they give up school. Under pressure to bear children, they cannot negotiate safe or consensual sex. As pregnant young mothers, they face the danger of injury and death. Indeed, childbirth is one of the biggest killers of teenage girls in the developing world — and their children face the same tragic odds.

Marrying a girl young, often to a much older man, is a sure way to inflict poverty and inequality in her community. But there is an alternative: to end this cycle is to free a girl to be safe and healthy — to let her flourish and become who she wants to be, on her own terms.

Five years ago, I organised a… continue reading on Financial Times

June 16, 2013

The Tragedy of Child Brides

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that of a total 140 million child marriages expected to take place between 2011 and 2020, 50 million will involve girls under the age of 15.  The UN, and most organization which track child marriages, define a child bride as a girl younger than 18 years of age. Boys are included in the statistics for child marriage, but comprise a small minority of children entering into marriage before age 18.

child-bridesThere are many negative effects of this practice. The facts below, compiled by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), highlight the tragic consequences for girls in a child marriage.

  • Child brides often show signs symptomatic of sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress such as feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and severe depression.
  • Girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death worldwide for women ages 15 to 19.
  • Child brides face a higher risk of contracting HIV because they often marry an older man with more sexual experience. Girls ages 15 – 19 are 2 to 6 times more likely to contract HIV than boys of the same age in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Girls with higher levels of schooling are less likely to marry as children.
  • Girls living in poor households are almost twice as likely to marry before 18 than girls in higher income households.

While the practice of child marriage has decreased worldwide over the last 30 years, it remains common in rural areas and among the poorest of the poor.  The regions where the practice is most prevalent include:

  • Southern Asia, 48%—nearly 10 million—of girls are married before the age of 18
  • Africa, 42% of girls are married before turning 18
  • Latin America and the Caribbean, 29% of girls are married by age 18

An end to child marriage won’t come quickly or easily in these regions.  It is tightly woven into the cultural and religious life of the communities there.  As Cynthia Gorney reported in her story on child brides  for National Geographic:

“The very idea that young women have a right to select their own partners—that choosing whom to marry and where to live ought to be personal decisions, based on love and individual will—is still regarded in some parts of the world as misguided foolishness. Throughout much of India, for example, a majority of marriages are still arranged by parents. Strong marriage is regarded as the union of two families, not two individuals. This calls for careful negotiation by multiple elders, it is believed, not by young people following transient impulses of the heart.

So in communities of pressing poverty, where nonvirgins are considered ruined for marriage and generations of ancestors have proceeded in exactly this fashion—where grandmothers and great-aunts are urging the marriages forward, in fact, insisting, I did it this way and so shall she—it’s possible to see how the most dedicated anti-child-marriage campaigner might hesitate, trying to fathom where to begin.”

Child marriage not only has adverse consequences for the girls affected, but also hurts the those societies in which it is common.  As Anju Malhotra, Vice President of Socioeconomic Development for the ICRW points out:

“Child marriage not only violates the human rights of girls, but its negative consequences ripple across entire societies. The practice contributes to extreme and persistent poverty; high illiteracy; high incidence of infectious diseases, including HIV; elevated child mortality rates; high birth rates; low life expectancy for women; and hunger and malnutrition. The consequences of child marriage undermine nearly all the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight targets that respond to the world’s main development challenges.”

The practice of child marriage represents a global problem, and it is only with a global effort that it will eventually be eliminated.  Until we ensure that every girl has the right to an education, to grow up in safety, and make her own choices about whether and whom she will marry, we will never be free of the scourges of poverty, ignorance and violence.

December 29, 2012

How to Make the World a Better Place – Get Involved!

GirlUp logoAs we approach the New Year, it is important to think about how young people can become more involved as global citizens interested in global issues and their solutions. As a Teen Advisor for Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign raising funds and awareness for UN programs that benefit girls, I have talked to countless teenagers about their role in making the world a better place for all. Many are unsure about where to begin or do not think that they can make a difference, but I believe that they simply do not understand how easy it can be. Here are four actions that anyone, but especially teenagers, can take to help create lasting change:

1.      Educate yourself. Read up on issues that you care about to be as knowledgeable as possible. Nicholas Kristof’s regular column in the New York Times is a good place to start for the latest information on international as well as domestic issues.  His book and documentary, Half the Sky, is a powerful way to learn about global issues affecting girls and women.
girl up stop child marriage logo2.      Advocate.  Make your voice heard! Meet with your elected officials to discuss pending legislation that matters to you, or send them an e-mail or letter. Don’t feel intimidated about meeting with your congressperson—they love to hear from their constituents, especially young people. The bill that I am passionate about is H.R. 6087 which lays out the U.S. plan for helping to end child marriage in foreign countries, and I plan to meet with my representative to discuss her support for it.
3.      Spread the word. Use social media to raise awareness about causes you care about. Tweets, Facebook status, and other posts have the potential to reach hundreds of people and take only seconds to write.
4.      Host an event. Don’t be intimidated—events don’t have to be elaborate or hard to plan. Ask a local restaurant to host a Charity Night where they give a certain percentage of one night’s profit to your organization. Alternatively, host a screening of a relevant documentary at your house or school and donate the admission fee.

The number of young people has never been higher, so we can be key allies in creating lasting peace in the world. Whether teenagers or young adults, I firmly believe that if we join together to make a difference in our own future, 2013 will be a watershed year for youth’s involvement in sustainable global peace.

October 9, 2012

First International Day of the Girl

Anyone can make a huge difference in the lives of girls around the world by celebrating the First Annual International Day of the Girl on Thursday, October 11, 2012.

international_day_of_the_girlThe United Nations officially recognized the International Day of the Girl 10 months ago, and since then organizations from around the world have planned events to celebrate. I serve as a Teen Advisor for one such organization, Girl Up, which is a United Nations Foundation campaign that raises funds and awareness for girls in developing countries. Girl Up hopes to mobilize its more than 250,000 constituents to raise awareness for the issues girls face worldwide and to fundraise for United Nations programs that benefit girls.

There are several easy things that you can do today to join the movement to support girls and women around the globe.

Spread the wordPost on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media about the International Day of the Girl. Be sure to post links to articles that talk about events happening to celebrate the day and share this video about the International Day of the Girl produced by 10×10, one of Girl Up’s partners.

Here are some sample social media posts to help you get started:

  • There are 600 million girls in developing countries – with our help, they can change the world. #dayofthegirl
  • Girls everywhere deserve the same opportunities that many of us enjoy in developed countries. Agree? Join the @Girlup movement here: girlup.org
  • We unite so girls can reach their full potential through education. Read about the challenges girls face and what we can do to help: http://www.ungei.org/

Donate. A small amount of money can change someone’s life forever. While solutions to global problems might seem incredibly expensive, a small amount of money can
change someone’s life forever. Consider donating to Girl Up or another worthy organization to help a girl reach her full potential.

 Lend your voice – Write, email, or call your Representative to voice your support for the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2012 (H.R. 6087). The bill is currently in committee, so it is really important that the legislators realize that preventing child marriage is a high priority to their constituents.

Let your elected representatives know that you care about legislation that impacts girls and women around the world.

girl-up-intl-day-of-the-girlWhile solving global problems might seem overwhelming, little actions can make a big difference! Social media gives all of us the chance to share our thoughts around the globe, and $5 donations and quick letters to your representatives are vitally important to the success of our campaign to improve the lives of girls and women around the world.

In order to truly make a lasting change, we can’t leave half of the population behind. Investing in girls and women is the key to making the world happier, healthier, and better for all.