(In Liberia, 250 community members attend a workshop against harmful practices, like child marriage.)
Every 19 minutes, a girl younger than 18 years old is married.
In the time it takes me to run two miles, bake a batch of cookies, or watch a quarter of basketball, a girl has been robbed of her childhood and is married, more likely to an older man.
Why does child marriage happen?
Sometimes parents choose to marry their young daughters in order to cope with the harsh realities of poverty.
When a girl is married and leaves her family to live with her husband, her family has one less mouth to feed.
Other times, families marry their daughters as a form of protection by securing a husband for their daughter at a young age.
Because there are different reasons for child marriage, in order to prevent it we must address multiple aspects of a girl’s life and her community’s beliefs.
Our friends at the International Center for Research on Women do amazing work to study the best ways to support women and girls around the world. They looked at all of the studies that have been conducted and programs that work to prevent child marriage and they wrote in “Solutions to End Child Marriage” that there are five effective ways to prevent child marriage:
1) Empower girls with information, skills, and support networks
2) Educate and mobilizing parents and communities
3) Give girls quality education
4) Provide families with economic support and incentives
5) Change laws so that child marriage is illegal
Just doing one of these strategies isn’t enough: taken together, they provide a powerful tool to prevent child marriage.
The UN programs Girl Up supports in Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, and Guatemala are putting these five strategies into action, and we believe that they will make a difference in each girl’s life and help her avoid child marriage.
In Ethiopia, we’re providing girls with scholarships and school supplies to ensure they have access to quality education.
Girls clubs provide skills and support networks, and parents and community leaders are involved in a campaign that stresses the importance of education instead of child marriage.
Job trainings and loans alleviate the strain of poverty so that families keep girls in school instead of being married.
In Liberia, girls who were taken out of school during the war receive literacy training, and other girls receive school materials and uniforms.
Girls clubs provide a safe space for girls who are at risk of early marriage, and community dialogues stress the harmful effects of child marriage.
In Malawi, a community-based “Stop Child Marriage” campaign focuses on creating awareness of the negative impact of child marriage.
Girls receive scholarships and vocational skills, and girls clubs create safe spaces for girl leadership and joint action.
In Guatemala, community networks help protect girls, and girls who have dropped out of school receive catch-up classes so they can return to school.
Financial literacy training helps relieve the burden of poverty on families.
To complement these programs, the UN Foundation’s support of the Adolescent Girls Advocacy and Leadership Initiative works to empower local advocates in Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, and Guatemala to build laws and policies to protect girls.
With your help, 19 minutes will no longer signify a childhood lost. Join us to say I DO take a stand against child marriage.