Tomorrow, on 2 March, at the She Decides conference, Girls Not Brides Chair, Mabel van Oranje will be encouraging ministers, representatives of non-government organisations, UN agencies and foundations to mobilise the political will and funding necessary to ensure that child brides can make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.
This comes at a time when a growing funding gap threatens to stall progress made to ensure contraceptive supplies, sex education, maternal health and other youth-friendly services are available.
Mabel van Oranje will say,
“Child brides have an enormous unmet need for contraception. They are vulnerable to the complications of early pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, fistulas, and death during child birth. Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death among 15 to 19 year olds globally.
At Girls Not Brides, we are working to end child marriage and empower girls. A big step forward would be to break down the taboos that exist around sex and ensure young people’s access to contraception. This can’t be done without engaging civil society, at all levels.”
Child brides are often forced into sexual activity at an age when their bodies are still developing. Adolescent birth rates are highest where child marriage is most common: 95% of the world’s births to adolescents occur in developing countries. 90% of these adolescent births are to girls already married or in a union.
Civil society organisations are central to ensuring that the needs of young girls are met. Local organisations are often the best placed to understand and respond to the needs of girls and families in communities. They can also act as key partners to their governments in developing and implementing effective strategies to combat child marriage and unwanted pregnancies.
In the time it has taken to read this article 18 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