650 million girls and women alive today were married before their 18th birthday. 12 million girls are affected every year, with an additional 10 million predicted to be at risk before the end of the decade because of COVID-19.
These significant numbers of girls and women affected by child marriage globally will be very familiar to many working within, and supporting, the movement to end this harmful practice. They may be new for those working in the broader development sector, but however familiar you are, you will know there is a long road ahead of us before we achieve gender equality.
Thanks to research and increased attention over the past decade, including acknowledgement in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we know child marriage is global and we have a sense of the size and scale of the issue.
However, many challenges remain to improve data and evidence on child marriage.
Two of the challenges we face as a sector are: making relevant and up-to-date data and analyses accessible to a wide audience; and how to better support local, national, regional and global convenings to promote data use so that we can hold key stakeholders accountable for commitments on ending child marriage.
It is vital to make progress in improving data access and use to ensure efforts to end child marriage are sustained at the global level. Better evidence can also galvanise political support, improve prevention programming, and help in raising awareness of the issue. It’s also essential to presenting a compelling case to generate donor support and direct funds to the field.
This week, UNICEF and ten strategic partners, including Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, launched the Child Marriage Monitoring Mechanism. This is a shared commitment to strengthening monitoring and accountability on ending child marriage. The initiative, led by UNICEF, will call attention to the issue of child marriage and mobilise action at the global and national levels, bringing together international and regional organisations, civil society and young people.
The mechanism provides the opportunity for data producers and data users to sit together at the table, define the priorities of those working programmatically and through advocacy to improve the lives of girls affected by and at risk of child marriage, and identify the gaps.
It will also help building capacity so that those who receive the data can use it in the most impactful way, converting knowledge into action.
Civil society are key actors in the improved understanding of child marriage through data and evidence and play a vital role in influencing and advocating for which data is relevant, and how to use of data.
If we do not know where the most at-risk girls and communities are, how can the issue be addressed? As the direct links to communities, civil society can access and gather data of all girls affected, not just those are more known or accessible. This includes the most vulnerable, marginalised, hardest-to-reach girls, and collectively civil society play a critical role in advocating for them.Jaspreet Hayre Bryson, Impact Delivery Manager , Girls Not Brides
Improving accessibility and dissemination of the available data and evidence, at all the levels of the movement– including local, sub-national and community levels is imperative. Girls Not Brides is contributing to the mechanism’s Strategic Advisory Group to represent the views of our Partnership, and to engage our global network of members in the platform to ensure the views of young people, civil society and both regional and national voices are heard.
Progress on broader gender equality issues such as sexual and reproductive health is dependent on ending child marriage. The new mechanism also aims to create a ripple effect across these related issues, highlighting the importance of multi-sectoral partnerships to achieve gender equality and broader development goals around issues such as girls’ education and poverty.
As we make progress towards 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Child Marriage Monitoring Mechanism will be a critical platform to support the movement and help us realise our goals together. The mechanism’s success relies on the contributions and inputs of civil society working to end child marriage around the world.
More information about how to input to the mechanism will be forthcoming. Please sign up to our newsletter to stay informed.
In the time it has taken to read this article 43 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