Child marriage is a formal marriage or informal union that takes place before the age of 18. It also describes a marriage that takes place without the free or valid consent of one or both of the partners and involves either physical or emotional pressure.
Child marriage is a human rights violation that prevents girls from obtaining an education, enjoying optimal health, bonding with others their own age, maturing, and ultimately choosing their own life partners. Child marriage is driven by poverty and has many effects on girls’ health: increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria, death during childbirth, and obstetric fistulas. Girls’ offspring are at increased risk for premature birth and death as neonates, infants, or children.
How we do it :
- Influencing marriage laws through advocacy and lobbying
- Empowering young people to advocate and campaign against it
- Providing safe spaces and support networks for girls at risk of child marriage
- Helping families understand the consequences of child marriage by working with communities
- Working with communities to make sure that girls are valued
- Supporting girls to stay in school and finding sources of financial support to help families pay for their daughters’ school costs.
Girls who marry young tend to be from poor families and to have low levels of education. If they marry men outside their village, they must move away. Coping with the unfamiliar inside and outside the home creates an intensely lonely and isolated life. As these girls assume their new roles as wives and mothers, they also inherit the primary job of domestic worker. Because the husband has paid a hefty dowry, the girl also has immediate pressure to prove her fertility. Girls often embrace their fate and bear children quickly to secure their identity, status, and respect as an adult. As a result, these young girls have high total fertility rates but have missed the opportunities to be children: to play, develop friendships, bond, become educated, and build social skills.
Youth training in sexual reproductive health