3 ways girls' education can help end child marriage
Education is a powerful strategy to end child marriage and ensure girls can fulfil their potential. Here are 3 ways the access to and quality of girls’ education can help in the movement to end child marriage.
Credit: Allison Joyce / Girls Not Brides
1) Education for girls significantly lowers child marriage prevalence
Keeping girls in schools is one of the best ways to delay marriage.
Did you know:
Most girls who marry leave school before getting married, and so access to education affects the timing of marriage more than marriage affects access to education.
The more time a girl spends in education, the greater the reduction in risk of child marriage. Secondary education is a much stronger and more consistent protection against child marriage than primary school education. On average, the likelihood of a girl marrying before she turns 18 is six percentage points less for every additional year she stays in secondary school¹.
2) Education can reduce gender inequality
Child marriage is rooted in gender inequality and social norms that discriminate against girls and women. These mean that girls and women often have fewer opportunities and access to rights than their male counterparts.
Education is fundamental in restructuring these gendered norms and inequalities. Those working in and for schools – including those developing and delivering school curricula – can make a conscious effort to challenge gender stereotypes and discriminatory norms in wider society, and support girls, boys and adolescents to do the same. Done like this, education becomes one of the most powerful drivers of change.
Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is crucial in transforming gender norms and inequality. When CSE is integrated as a formal part of the curriculum, girls are more able to make and act on decisions about their bodies and lives.
Education also provides girls with a range of skills which prepare them for employment, and also help them to develop personal goals and skills. As more girls attend and stay in school, the role of girls and women in wider society will also shift.
3) The effect of girls’ education is intergenerational
Providing 12 years of quality education for one girl not only delays marriage for that individual but also delays marriage for generations of girls and women that will follow her. It can mean that her daughters are more likely to stay in education for longer and therefore less likely to marry or enter a union before they turn 18.
Did you know:
Women with a formal education are more likely to invest in the health and education of their children as they are more likely to value schooling and be aware of the rates of return on education.
As a result, their children will have better nutrition, higher immunisation rates, increased enrolment in school and improved school performance².
These women will also be more likely to earn more money. Evidence demonstrates that an additional year of schooling can increase a woman’s earnings by up to 20%., these women can therefore contribute more to economic growth. Countries lose more than $1 billion dollars a year failing to educate girls. So, as well as being the right thing to do, guaranteeing girls' education also interrupts the intergenerational cycle of poverty and disadvantage, and benefits society.
How you can advocate for girls’ education
At Girls Not Brides, we recognise the strength of partnership and collective action.
Hold your government accountable by writing to them calling for:
1) More investment in programmes that supports girls to continue education
There is no doubt that the transition to – and completion of – secondary school needs to be the focus for investment and action. Call on your government to dedicate financial resource to girls’ education and especially programmes that directly benefit adolescent girls. For guidance, check out our template letter.
2) Advocate for gender-transformative school curriculums
Advocate for gender-transformative curriculums that challenge harmful gender norms and stereotypes and reinforce equal opportunity and rights for girls and boys. Ask your government to design gender-responsive education systems and cross-sector plans that acknowledge the two-way link between child marriage and girls’ education. Promote active participation of girls and women in the design of education programmes and curriculums. Advocate for curriculums to include age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education.
3) Support girls to step into their power
Work with girls in your community to advocate for their own right to quality education. Offer girls the support, skills and safe space they need to step into their power and make their own decision to stay in education and advocate for other girls to do the same. Get some inspiration from our members on the International Day of the Girl and the activities they carried out to bring girls into the conversation and ensure they have the tools they need to speak for themselves and inspire change.
In the time it has taken to read this article 46 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
- ¹ Wodon, Q., et al., 2018a, Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls, Washington DC: World Bank
- ² World Bank, 2014, Voice and agency: Empowering women and girls for shared prosperity.
- ³ Global Partnership for Education, 2021a,Benefits of education.
- ⁴ Global Partnership for Education, 2021b, We can't afford not to invest in girls' education.
- Other sources:
- Comprehensive Sexual Education: Comprehensive sexuality education (lbrent1.wixsite.com)
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