Over the past year, Girls Not Brides members have achieved significant successes in advocating for an end to child marriage. Together, we have prompted unprecedented global attention on child marriage, with more governments committing to act than ever before.
This growing momentum is happening at a crucial time, as the global community defines its priorities for the post-2015 development framework, a new global framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals and which aims to set us all on a path to a sustainable and prosperous future.
Successes in 2014 will lay the groundwork for more action in 2015. From the Girl Summit to the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals, without forgetting successes in South Asia and Africa, support for a target to end child marriage in the post-2015 agenda is undeniably growing.
Now is the time for all of us to rally and continue to encourage governments to end child marriage.
1. Target to end child, early and forced marriage proposed by the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals
A target to ‘eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilations’ under a gender equality goal, was proposed in the final document of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Importantly, the OWG’s report will form the basis of the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development framework which start in January.
The UN Secretary-General’s synthesis report on post-2015, which brings together the various post-2015/SDGs contributions, calls for the practice of child, early and forced marriage to be ended everywhere. This is vital recognition of the need to include child, early and forced marriage in the next set of goals and targets.
Girls Not Brides members contributed to these successes by taking part in a number of post-2015 advocacy initiatives, including; a letter co-signed by 148 members to the co-chairs of the OWG, urging them to maintain a distinct target on child, early and forced marriage and a letter co-signed by 176 members to the UN Secretary-General stressing the need for a strong target.
2. UN General Assembly puts spotlight on child, early and forced marriage
The first-ever substantive resolution on child early and forced marriage was adopted by the UN General Assembly in November. 116 states from a broad, cross-regional group co-sponsored the resolution, recognising the need for a target to end child, early and forced marriage in the post-2015 development framework.
Girls Not Brides members urged governments in capitals and in New York, to co-sponsor the resolution and will be using the resolution in their national level advocacy next year.
Dynamic panel discussion at UN General Assembly highlights child, early and forced marriage
An engaging and dynamic panel discussion on child, early and forced marriage at the UN General Assembly – also the first of its kind – made up of a panel of experts, including Girls Not Brides members and partners, and member states, made a resounding call for a strong target in the post-2015 development framework.
3. Child, early and forced marriage was prominent on the agenda of the Human Rights Council
A report released by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on preventing and eliminating child, early and forced marriage, provides definitions of child, early and forced marriage, and makes recommendations to end the practice. The report fed into the first panel discussion on child, early and forced marriage at the Human Rights Council in June.
Girls Not Brides members contributed to the consultation for the OHCHR report by highlighting what was happening in their country, or, internationally and offering strong recommendations about what needs to be done to end child marriage.
A joint statement, delivered by 117 states at the Human Rights Council in September, declared an intention to introduce a resolution on child, early and forced marriage in June 2015. The resolution will be an important contribution to the post-2015 discussions and demonstrates the on-going commitment to the issue, and recognition that child, early and forced marriage is a human rights violation.
For the first time, the CEDAW and CRC committees issued a joint recommendation/general comment on eliminating harmful practices, including child marriage and made recommendations to end the practice.
4. Over 100 commitments made on child marriage at first-ever Girl Summit
The first Girl Summit, which took place in July and focussed on child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM/C), resulted in over 100 political and financial commitments to end child marriage. A Charter was also adopted at the Summit, calling for an end to child marriage and FGM/C everywhere and for both practices to be included in the post-2015 development agenda.
Representatives from more than 50 Girls Not Brides member organisations around the world attended the Girl Summit.
5. Growing regional commitments to end child marriage
2014 saw exciting and welcome developments from Africa and South Asia, with the launch of the African Union campaign to end child marriage and the adoption of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence Against Children’s (SAIEVAC) regional action plan to end child marriage.
With the announcement that the theme of next year’s Day of the African Child will be child marriage and a strong call from South Asian governments to implement the regional action plan and support a target to end child marriage, next year is shaping up to be another significant year in our efforts to end child marriage.
While we all know that change happens in communities, the commitments that governments make at the global level are critical for making this happen.
As we move into 2015, now is the time to take stock of where we have come and call for these commitments to turn into action to end child marriage, once and for all.
In the time it has taken to read this article 59 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 3 seconds
Girls Not Brides
Ommera Zafar is Policy Assistant at Girls Not Brides.