How can we end child marriage?
Addressing child marriage is at the heart of Girls Not Brides’ work. Solutions vary according to the circumstances in each community, but we have highlighted some of the effective interventions below.
Girls Not Brides has developed a ‘Theory of Change on Child Marriage’, a visual diagram that demonstrates the range of approaches needed to address child marriage and how they intersect.
Informed by the insights of Girls Not Brides members and other experts on child marriage, the Theory of Change articulates what an effective response to child marriage entails. It outlines the range of approaches needed, demonstrates how they intersect, and aims to provide a basis to identify common indicators that could be used by diverse practitioners to monitor progress.
Girls Not Brides USA has also put together a technical brief that highlights potential strategies to delay the age of marriage and meet the needs of married children. It also outlines factors to consider when assessing how and where to support efforts to end child marriage.
Educating and empowering girls
Education is one of the most powerful tools to delay the age at which girls marry as school attendance helps shift norms around child marriage.
Improving girls’ access to quality schooling will increase girls’ chances of gaining a secondary education and helps to delay marriage. When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries on average four years later.
Empowering girls, by offering them opportunities to gain skills and education, providing support networks and creating ‘safe spaces’ where girls can gather and meet outside the home, can help girls to assert their right to choose when they marry.
Girls Not Brides members are working to empower girls by establishing girls’ groups that provide a safe space for girls to meet and share experiences, reducing their sense of isolation and vulnerability.
- Findings from India: Low self-esteem leaves girls vulnerable to child marriage - By Girls Not Brides with Dr Ashok Dyalchand, Institute of Health Management Pachod, India
- Students, not brides: Why ending child marriage and advancing girls’ education must go hand in hand - By Lakshmi Sundaram, Girls Not Brides
- No to child marriage, yes to education for girls in India – Video, UNICEF
- Breaking the cycle of child marriage – Empowering adolescent girls with training on reproductive and sexual health – CINI, India
- Child brides, invisible and voiceless: no more! – TEFSA project, Ethiopia
- Why keeping girls in school can help South Sudan – Human Rights Watch
Supporting young people to become activists for change
Girls Not Brides members have set up youth groups, bringing together adolescent girls and boys to share their experiences and to encourage girls and boys to become advocates for change. Some of our members encourage dialogue between youth groups and local community leaders or government officials on the issues that affect young people, including child marriage.
- Marriage laws in Malawi: how can girls benefit if they are not consulted? - By Faith Phiri, GENET Malawi
- My vision: How young Africans can drive efforts to end child marriage - By Jude Thaddeus, Organisation of African Youth Cameroon
- Meet the wedding busters: stopping child marriage in Bangladesh – Plan International
- How my sister’s story fired in me a passion to stand up to child marriage – By Humphrey Nabimanya, Reach A Hand Uganda
Mobilising and educating communities
Laws alone won’t end child marriage – in many instances legislation is not enforced as many local authorities are reluctant to be seen as interfering in the private affairs of families. Many are simply unaware of the scale of child marriage and the harmful impact it can have.
Girls Not Brides members are working in a number of ways to raise awareness among communities of the impact of child marriage such as street theatre, bicycle rallies, and encouraging community dialogue, which often results in a collective community pledge to end child marriage.
- Achieving what we once thought impossible: an end to harmful traditional practices - By Molly Melching, Tostan, Senegal
- Bikers against child marriage - By Venkat Reddy, MV Foundation, India
- Culture in action: street theatre raises awareness of child marriage in Pakistan - By Safeer Ullah Khan, Bedari
- Don’t demonise: we won’t end child marriage by accusing parents who marry off their daughters – By Emily Janoch and Stephanie Lambert, CARE
Bringing men and traditional leaders on board
Religious and traditional leaders, too, can play a key role in speaking out against child marriage and changing community attitudes. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has spoken forcefully on the need for men and boys, as well as religious and traditional leaders, to support efforts to end child marriage.
- A message to men and boys - By Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders
- Why traditional chiefs like me must stand against child marriage – By Chief Nzamane
- Break taboos and engage men: key steps to end child marriage in Pakistan – By Qamar Naseem, Blue Veins
- Religious leaders denounce child marriage in Nepal – Video
- “Waylowaylo”: Changing attitudes on girls’ education to delay marriage in Senegal - Video
- Sex and sensibility: breaking through India’s patriarchal bias – By Somali Khan, Breakthrough
Enacting and enforcing laws that set a legal minimum age for marriage
While most countries legislate for a minimum legal age for marriage, this is often not enforced. Some countries continue to have a legal age for marriage lower than in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The legal age for marriage is also higher for men than women in many countries.
- Nigeria’s opportunity to clarify its position on minimum age of marriage – By Lakshmi Sundaram, Girls Not Brides
- The Maputo Protocol 10 years on: How can it be used to help end child marriage? - By Kavinya Makau, Equality Now
- Yemen’s chance to set 18 as the minimum age of marriage, says Human Rights Watch – Human Rights Watch
- How important is minimum age of marriage legislation to end child marriage in Africa? -
By Violet Odala, African Child Policy Forum
Introducing economic incentives can help to encourage families to consider alternatives to child marriage. Incentives include microfinance schemes to help girls support themselves and their families, and providing loans, subsidies and conditional cash transfers to parents of girls at risk of becoming child brides.
Raising awareness in the media
Girls Not Brides members are using mass media campaigns to raise awareness about general rights and laws and the impact of child marriage. Our members aim to both raise awareness among the general public and to pressure governments and community leaders to take action to end the practice.
- Finding an ally: Building partnerships with the media on child marriage - By Girls Not Brides with SOLID Nepal
- Media coverage of child marriage in Malaysia – Reflections – By Nicole Helwig, Malaysia Child Resource Institute
- Solidarity in the face of hostility: civil society and the media work together to end child marriage in Pakistan – By Mashooque Birhamani, Sujag Sansar
The 2011 ICRW report, Solutions to End Child Marriage: What the Evidence Shows, gives a helpful assessment of ‘what works’ based on an extensive evaluation of programmes to prevent child marriage around the world.
On International Day of the Girl Child 2012, Girls Not Brides hosted a Google+ Hangout to discuss how we can make a world free of child marriage a reality. Participants included Christy Turlington of Every Mother Counts, Mary Robinson of The Elders, Anju Malhotra of UNICEF and Muhammad Shahzad Khan, a youth activist from Pakistan supported by Friends of UNFPA.