Addressing child marriage is at the heart of Girls Not Brides’ work. Solutions vary according to the circumstances in each community, but effective interventions include:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.