According to UNICEF, an estimated 12 million girls under the age of 18 are married every year, which translates to 33,000 child marriages every day. It is important to note that child marriage also affects boys, although girls are disproportionately affected.
Child marriage is a deeply concerning practice that robs millions of children around the world of their childhood, education, and future opportunities. Despite significant progress in recent years, the fight against child marriage faces new challenges. The combination of conflicts, climate shocks, and the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect storm that threatens to reverse the hard-won gains in ending this harmful practice. In this blog, we explore the impacts of these three factors and emphasize the urgent need for collective action to protect children and eradicate child marriage.
A Barrier to Progress Conflicts have devastating consequences for societies, and children are often the most vulnerable victims. In conflict-affected regions, child marriage rates tend to increase due to numerous factors such as displacement, poverty, disruption of educational systems, and limited protection mechanisms. In desperate situations, families may resort to child marriage as a coping mechanism, mistakenly believing it will provide security for their daughters. To address child marriage effectively, conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts must be prioritized, accompanied by support systems that protect children from exploitation and ensure access to education and essential services.
Amplifying Vulnerabilities, climate change exacerbates existing vulnerabilities and deepens socio-economic inequalities. Disasters such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes often result in loss of livelihoods and food insecurity, pushing families to extreme measures. In such circumstances, child marriage may be seen as a means to reduce economic burdens or secure alliances. Mitigating the impact of climate change, promoting sustainable development, and providing targeted support to climate-affected communities are crucial steps towards preventing child marriage.
A Dire Setback The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives worldwide, with far-reaching consequences for children. School closures, economic downturns, and strained health systems have compounded the risks faced by vulnerable children. The pandemic has disproportionately affected girls, who face increased domestic responsibilities, heightened risks of gender-based violence, and limited access to support services. Additionally, economic hardships have pushed families to marry off their daughters at an early age, as they struggle to cope with the fallout from the pandemic. Safeguarding children's rights and ensuring their well-being during and after the pandemic requires targeted interventions, including access to education, healthcare, and social protection programs.
Collective Action for Change:
Strengthening Laws and Policies: Governments must enforce and strengthen laws against child marriage, ensuring they align with international human rights standards. Adequate resources should be allocated for implementation, monitoring, and enforcement, accompanied by awareness campaigns to change societal norms and attitudes.
Comprehensive Education: Promote access to quality education, especially for girls, as education is a powerful tool for empowerment and protection against child marriage. Investments in educational infrastructure, teacher training, and scholarships can help keep children in school and delay marriage.
Community Engagement: Engage with communities and religious leaders to challenge harmful traditions and practices. Encourage dialogue and provide platforms for open discussions to address misconceptions, raise awareness, and promote alternative pathways for girls' empowerment.
Support for Vulnerable Families: Implement social protection programs that target vulnerable families, providing them with financial support, livelihood opportunities, and access to essential services. This can alleviate economic pressures and reduce the drivers of child marriage.
Global Partnerships: Foster international cooperation and collaboration among governments, NGOs, civil society organizations, and grassroots movements to share best practices, resources, and expertise. By working together, we can amplify our impact and accelerate progress towards ending child marriage.
Child marriage is a grave violation of children's rights, perpetuating cycles of poverty, inequality, and gender-based violence.
To end child marriage, progress must be 20 times faster. At the current pace, still over 9 million girls will marry in the year 2030, with a growing number of child brides in sub-Saharan Africa, and it will take another 300 years until child marriage is eliminated worldwide.
Help us to end Child Marriage!