Child, early, forced marriage and unions are a violation of human rights that disproportionately affects adolescent girls. Child marriage is a form and cause of gender-based violence that has profound and life-changing impacts on children, their families and subsequent generations.
Married girls are denied the freedom to make critical decisions about their own lives. They are disproportionately at risk of an early end to their education, social isolation, ongoing exposure to violence and the risks of death and disability associated with adolescent pregnancy.
Around 12 million girls are married every year, 2 million before their 15th birthday. Before the pandemic, progress to end child marriage was flat lining. Now, the COVID-19 crisis, conflict and climate change are increasing the risk of child marriage. The girls most impacted by inequality and discrimination – including those living through conflict and humanitarian crises– face the greatest risk.
As a child rights organisation dedicated to ensuring all children have an equal opportunity to survive, learn, and live free from violence, Save the Children recognises that urgent action is required to prevent and respond to child, early, forced marriage and unions around the world.
Our key strategies include:
Together with girls and other champions for gender equality, we are working to prevent 9 million child marriages by 2026. To help deliver the Global Acceleration Plan for Gender Equality, Save the Children will:
Parents don’t usually marry off their young teenage girls out of cruelty or callousness. They do it because, in the toughest places in the world, it is often seen as the best way to give their children a secure future.
That was the fate facing 15-year-old Shumi, whose parents wanted to marry her to a man she had never met. Shumi was against the marriage, so she reached out to her neighbour Jasmin for support. Jasmin is a Save the Children-trained peer leader, who runs an advocacy group for girls in her village in Bangladesh.
Jasmin has won great respect in her community for the way she teaches, empowers and supports girls. She has also helped change how girls are valued and treated through the Suchana programme.
This programme also provides families like Shumi’s with support to grow vegetables and rear livestock – enabling them to keep their children in school and away from risks of child marriage.
Jasmin spoke to Shumi’s family and encouraged them to allow Shumi to complete her studies – now she’ll get that chance.
“I want to be successful in life...Now I’ll complete my education and become a good human being.” says Shumi.