Why do we need to act?
When girls have access to economic opportunities, they can plan a more prosperous future for themselves, their families and their communities. Girls from poor families are two and a half times more likely to marry before 18 years than girls from wealthier families.
Child brides are more likely to be poor and to stay poor, they and their children are more likely to be malnourished, they usually suffer higher rates of malnutrition, due to early and frequent pregnancies. Babies born to girls younger than 15 years are more likely to die before their 5th birthday, suffer from malnutrition and experience stunting.
Ending child marriage is a strategic way of tackling gender inequality and shifting the discriminatory norms that perpetuate child marriage, empowers girls so they can choose if, when and whom they marry. Child brides are less likely to lead prosperous lives. They are less likely to participate in the workforce once they become adults. When they do, it’s usually in lower skilled and lower paid jobs.
When girls have the skills and opportunities to secure a job, they can support themselves and their families and break the cycle of poverty. Child marriage can lead to poor mental health, including feelings of isolation, depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
Ending child marriage will improve girls’ health and wellbeing throughout their lives. Marriage limits a girl’s ability to go to school, learn new skills and put the ones she has to use and being out of school puts girls at risk. Girls with no education are three times more likely to marry before 18 years compared to girls with a secondary or higher education.
Child marriage affects the most vulnerable populations and disproportionately affects poor, rural and disadvantaged girls, creating cycles of poverty that reinforce inequalities. Child brides have little decision-making power in their homes or communities and are less likely to participate fully in society. Child brides are often marginalized and hard to reach. We will not end violence against children without ending child marriage.
Child marriage is a form of violence against girls and a violation of their most fundamental human rights. Child brides often face violence at the hands of their partners or their in-laws, especially if there is a large age difference. The violence of forced sexual initiation and early pregnancy have a lasting impact on married girls’ physical and mental health throughout their life and ending violence against children needs to go hand in hand with ending child marriage.