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Girls Not Brides heads to India to host its first South Asia regional meeting

Local girls meet the Elders on a tour of rural Rajasthan. Photo credit: Graham Crouch/The Elders

Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage is delighted to announce that it will hold its first regional meeting in New Delhi, India from 9-10 February 2012. The meeting will bring together over 70 people and organisations from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka committed to ending child marriage.

Why is Girls Not Brides hosting its first regional meeting in South Asia?

Half of the world’s child brides live in South Asia, where 46 per cent of girls are married before they are 18 years old. This is a staggering loss of global potential. South Asia is also home to countries with some of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. In Bangladesh, 66 per cent of girls marry as children – only Niger, Chad and Mali have more child brides as a percentage of their population.

Civil society organisations across South Asia have long worked to protect and improve the health, education, economic status and rights of girls and women. Participants at the Girls Not Brides meeting will be encouraged to draw on this shared experience and discuss how to support the millions of girls across the region vulnerable to early marriage.

South Asia can drive change on a global scale

By demonstrating that change can happen and achieving a significant reduction in the number of girls who marry before 18, South Asia could drive change on a global scale. There are a number of excellent programmes in place across the region that focus on empowering girls, mobilising communities, and putting in place laws and policies that protect vulnerable girls. Many effective programmes are based directly at the community level. A key challenge will be to see how these successful interventions can be replicated nationally.

By coming together in Delhi, participants at the Girls Not Brides meeting can share experiences, learn from each other’s brave work to end child marriage and build regional momentum towards ending the practice.

Desmond Tutu and fellow Elders to attend Girls Not Brides India meeting

Girls Not Brides was initiated in 2011 by The Elders, a group of independent global leaders working together for human rights. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders, will attend the opening of the Girls Not Brides meeting along with three fellow Elders: Mrs Ela Bhatt, founder of India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA); Dr Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway; and Mrs Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland.

For further information about the Girls Not Brides regional meeting, contact

Child marriage in South Asia

  • Nearly half of all girls (46%) marry before the age of 18 in South Asia, higher than any other region. In some South Asian regions, however, the situation is even graver with higher rates and high proportions of girls married before they reach 15 years.
  • Percentage of girls who marry before 18: Afghanistan: 43%, Bangladesh: 66%, India: 47%, Nepal: 51%, Pakistan: 24%, Sri Lanka: 12%.
  • The minimum legal age for marriage for girls in the region varies from age 16 (Pakistan) to 20 (Nepal). In some countries (Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh) the legal age for marriage is lower for girls than for boys.
  • More than half the world’s adolescents live in either the South Asia or the East Asia and Pacific region.
  • Although the average age at first marriage is gradually increasing in South Asia, the rate of progress is slow.
  • Social norms around gender and marriage, cultural traditions like the dowry, customary law condoning the practice, and a lack of access to educational opportunities are all factors which impinge on child marriage across the region.

Source: UNICEF