About Child Marriage
More than 250 million women alive today were married before their 15th birthday, many against their will. Child marriage robs them of their childhoods, education, health and freedom. And it subjects girls to rape and abuse for the rest of their lives.
Girls living in the poorest, rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are the most vulnerable. And as populations continue to grow, hundreds of millions of girls remain at risk.
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Effects of Child Marriage
- Girls are extremely vulnerable to violence. For many girls, child marriage subjects them to continuous rape and abuse. Isolated from friends and family they have limited means to get support or share what they are going through.
- Their health and lives are at risk. Early childbearing puts girls’ lives at risk, and increases the chance of stillbirth, infant mortality, and disabling complications for the mother such as obstetric fistula. Globally, 16 million girls aged between 15 and 19, and 1 million girls under the age of 15, give birth each year. 70,000 girls die during pregnancy and childbirth. This makes complications during pregnancy and childbirth the second highest cause of death for girls aged 15-19 worldwide. (World Health Organisation (2014), ‘Adolescent pregnancy’)
- Girls’ education is cut short. As a result, millions of girls continue to be held back and remain living in poverty. (UNICEF (2015), ‘A profile of child marriage in Africa’)
Ending The Practice
Local ActionAid staff around the world are working to end child marriage in their communities – bringing perpetrators to justice, educating communities on the negative effects of the practice and empowering girls to have a voice and say no. ActionAid also campaigns at a regional, national and international level to end forced marriage.
ActionAid’s Irish Aid funded women’s right programme is currently using a new and innovative behaviour change methodology to combat child marriage. This includes working with community members at all levels to help them analyse their behaviour in promoting child marriage and to better understand the effects of this negative behaviour and how it can be changed. Ending child marriage and keeping children in school is also an integral part of our child sponsorship programme.
We are currently running a petition asking people to support our work to end child marriage. If you haven’t signed the petition yet or want to share it with family and friends, click here.
Photo caption: Abigail, a 14-year-old girl who escaped child marriage in North West Kenya. Photo taken by Ashley Hamer /ActionAid