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Afghanistan launches national action plan to end child marriage

Photo credit: A young girl pictured on International Women's Day in Helmand, Afghanistan / Mette Bastholm/ Helmand PRT/ Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs/ Department for International Development 2012

The Afghan government took a concrete step towards addressing child marriage this week by launching a “National Action Plan to Eliminate Early and Child Marriage”. This is an encouraging development in a country where 33% of girls are married before the age of 18.

The First Lady of Afghanistan, Rula Ghani, expressed her support for the national action plan, urging families to stop marrying their daughters:

“I urge all Afghan families to avoid child and forced marriages. Your girls face a huge risk when they get married at a young age. Early marriage robs them of their childhood and future opportunities.”

The National Action Plan was developed by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ministry of Information and Culture, with support from UNFPA Afghanistan, the Canadian government and input from a range of stakeholders.

According to UNFPA Afghanistan, the plan of action revolves around two approaches: developing and supporting initiatives to prevent and end child marriage, and improving the implementation of laws and provision of services to people affected by child marriage.

How was the action plan developed?

The National Action Plan was developed in several phases:

  • Four preliminary workshops were held in Kandahar, Herat, Nangarhar and Bamiyan to collect views and opinions that would guide the development of the action plan.
  • A national workshop held in Kabul in June 2016 brought together various ministries, as well as representatives of the public and private sectors and the international community, to gather feedback on the draft plan.
  • In September 2016, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Deputy Ministry of Youth Affairs held a one-day consensus-building workshop to finalise the national action plan. The workshop also aimed to mobilise support for the plan’s implementation.

Now that the National Action Plan has been officially launched, it will be crucial for all actors to work together on leveraging the funding and resources to ensure it becomes a reality.

Child marriage in Afghanistan

  • According to UNICEF, 33% of girls are married before their age of 18.
  • Poverty, strong patriarchal values and poor access to education all drive child marriage in Afghanistan.
  • Cultural practices such as exchange marriages (girls from two families are exchanged for marriage) or giving girls in baad (marriage used to settle feuds), also fuel to the practice.
  • The legal age of marriage is 16 years for women and 18 years for men under the Afghan Civil Code. However, girls as young as 15 can be married with their father’s or a court’s approval.
  • More info: Afghanistan country page.


We will update this article as we find out more details about the National Action Plan and its implementation. 

This story relates to Goal A “Governments” of Girls Not Brides’ 2017-2020 strategy. The goal is about ensuring governments take action to address child marriage in their countries, with the active participation of civil society and other stakeholders. Find out more.