Happy new year! 2022 is upon us and with it brings a whole host of opportunities and, no doubt, challenges to overcome. I know the global movement to end child marriage has faced many challenges recently and I want to take this moment as we embark on a new year to reflect on how far we’ve come as we plan for the next 12 months.
COVID-19 continues to affect all our lives and bring greater risk to girls and the communities we work with. However, when I look back at what we have achieved despite the barriers brought about by the pandemic, I am very proud and applaud the achievements of all members of the global partnership.
There have been many exciting advancements from all corners of the world that progressed girls’ rights in 2021:
- In Tanzania, girls will now be able to re-enter school as young mothers, an issue that the Girls Not Brides coalition in Tanzania has campaigned on for many years.
- We celebrated formalising our newest National Partnership in Kenya and we are looking forward to completing a similar process in Guatemala very soon. We also continued to strengthen and build coalitions in many more countries across the world.
- In the UK, our National Partnership celebrated a significant step towards closing a legal loophole that allows child marriage under 18 in England and Wales, thanks to a second reading of the marriage and civil partnership (minimum age) bill in November.
- At the Generation Equality Forum, diverse voices and key perspectives were represented and heard from across the Girls Not Brides partnership. We worked with partners to support young leaders to attend regional youth summits in Mexico and Paris. We also worked with the International Indigenous Women Forum and other Indigenous networks and partners to arrange a high-level dialogue between Indigenous women and major stakeholders, and produced a global statement from Indigenous women for the Generation Equality Forum.
- Globally, the Power to Girls campaign we launched in September brought us together around a single ask: how will we ensure girls have the power to decide their futures? I am thrilled to see campaign commitments from high-level decision-makers, activists and member organisations already, and national campaigns rolling out in 11 countries. You can still make a Power to Girls commitment and take a campaign action to help ensure girls can access their power and their rights.
- The Girls Not Brides Uttar Pradesh State Partnership in India trained 2,150 adolescent girls from 20 districts to enhance their access to sexual and reproductive health services and support their higher education. The benefits of this cascaded to reach over 22,000 girls across the districts.
We celebrate these milestones and achievements together in a time when there are still so many challenges to overcome, and many girls are still at risk of child marriage. The progress we have made shows that even in challenging times, we can still deliver change for girls.
Everyone has a role to play in this movement, and Girls Not Brides will soon be sharing the new Partnership Strategy for 2022-2025. With a strong focus on accelerated collective action to end child marriage, it sets out how, together, we can continue to make progress for girls.
What has been reaffirmed for me this year is that the future success of the movement to end child marriage lies in you. It lies in the hundreds of individuals, activists and leaders from communities all over the world building and contributing to a growing movement. As we make plans for 2022, let us allow the achievements of the past to propel us to even greater heights. Let us make 2022 our year, when we see pivotal shifts to accelerate our efforts so that we make a difference in girls’ lives, free from child marriage.
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In the time it has taken to read this article 39 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 2 seconds