If a young girl could speak to the G7 leaders, what would she say? Perhaps she would ask them to protect and uphold her rights and power to make decisions about her own life; to decide when, whom and if she marries; to have access to education.
As the Heads of State for the world’s largest economic powers meet this weekend, they must consider the voices of girls from around the world, their futures and the contributions we as a global community will miss out on if we do not address global gender inequalities they are facing.
The UK hosting this year’s G7 could not come at a better time for the lead member organisations of Girls Not Brides’ UK National Partnership, FORWARD, Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO), Independent Yemen Group and Karma Nirvana.
We have seen...a surge in violence towards women and girls and at the same time women and girls have seen their jobs, access to health and education disappear. Girls must be prioritised in high level discussions because their experiences matter, their wealth of expertise...must be listened to so that things are improved.Payzee Mahmod, Campaigner, IKWRO
The co-chairs recently launched a campaign urging the UK Government to increase legal protection for children at risk of child, early and forced marriage and unions (CEFMU) in the UK. Ministers have suggested that they may support a potential change to UK law to increase the legal age of marriage to 18 following the launch of this campaign. Ending child marriage must be a priority for the UK and the other G7 members both domestically and overseas.
This is an opportunity for the UK Government to take bold action. The G7 is an international platform that provides an opportunity to have a united front, and kick the UK into action.Natasha Rattu, Barrister and Executive Director, Karma Nirvana
In their recent campaign the National Partnership called attention to the “thriving” issue of child marriage in the UK. Child marriage is a truly global issue, with 12 million girls married before the age of 18 every single year, that is rooted in gender inequality.
Global leaders meeting for the G7 in Cornwall, England this weekend will be tackling some of the most pressing issues facing the world today, including girls’ education and COVID-19 response and recovery which will be front and centre in discussions.
Girls who stay in school longer are less likely to be married before they are 18 with every year they remain in education. Conversely, prevention of child marriage is also a strong contributing factor to girls staying in school for longer, and particularly into secondary school.
The UK’s commitment to increase investment into the Global Partnership for Education is greatly welcomed, however higher levels of resources are needed if we’re to tackle the barriers to education faced by millions of girls globally, including child marriage.
I would like the G7 to grasp the nettle and lead the paradigm shift required to protect girls from child marriage by committing to hold governments accountable to rights of girls and women including zero tolerance of marriages of children.Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Executive Director, FORWARD
Ending child marriage and improving girls’ education are inextricably linked
When a girl is married before the age of 18, her life chances are significantly altered, and it can have devastating consequences for her health and future. One global report showed that only 2.4% of married girls 15-19 are in education, and some countries such as Tanzania and Mozambique have had discriminatory laws that prohibit pregnant girls from returning to school, which have now been overturned following determined advocacy.
The ongoing ramifications of COVID-19, including a rise in child marriages and early pregnancies, makes girls’ education and gender inequality even more urgent issues that G7 leaders must prioritise. Estimates suggest that the implications of COVID-19 will lead to 10 million more child marriages by 2030.
We’ve seen how the pandemic has widened gender inequalities. G7 leaders need to acknowledge and commit to setting this right – we cannot ignore how the gaps have widened.Natasha Rattu, Barrister and Executive Director, Karma Nirvana
To ensure a strong recovery from COVID-19 for all, it is critical that governments invest in education programmes and policies that support girls in returning to school, especially those girls that are often hardest to reach, like girls at risk of marriage, married or pregnant girls.
Girls and young women cannot wait any longer, gender inequality is damaging to economies and leaving so many girls and women behind is simply unethical and cannot be sustained.Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Executive Director, FORWARD
Investing in girls now for the future
Over the past quarter century, significant progress has been made both for girls’ education and gender equality. 1 in 5 girls are married as children as opposed to 1 in 4 in 1995, and 180 million more girls have enrolled in primary and secondary school in the same time period.
Girls are pivotal figures of our future economy. Discussing the factors and risk that girls are exposed to should be a priority for the G7, as that is the beginning of identifying areas and methods in which we can invest in their livelihood and wellbeing.Tasleem Mulhall, Campaigner, and Project Manager with Independent Yemen Group
Girls Not Brides members including the UK National Partnership, are working around the world and at all levels, from the local, grassroots level, to advocating for change in global spaces, to shift the paradigm for girls.
G7 leaders must continue to build on the progress already made and not allow a roll-back on girls’ rights at this pivotal moment.
In the time it has taken to read this article 57 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