COVID-19: latest news and resources on child marriage and COVID-19

Girls Not Brides USA welcomes the House introduction of the Keeping Girls in School Act

Radha, 17 years old, sits an exam in Rajasthan, India. Photo by Allison Joyce/Girls Not Brides

Girls Not Brides USA, the U.S. national partnership of Girls Not Brides, is dedicated to ending child, early and forced marriage, and welcomes the House introduction of the Keeping Girls in School Act.

Introduced this week by Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Dan Donovan (R-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Ami Bera (D-CA), the Keeping Girls in School Act is designed to harness the power of the U.S. Government to get at the root causes that keep more than 130 million girls globally, ages 6-17, from enrolling or attending school.

Keeping girls in school is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

Recent research by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the World Bank showed that eliminating child marriage would save many governments five percent or more of their education budgets by 2030 . In some countries, eliminating child marriage would reduce their reliance on overseas development assistance by a sixth.

Child marriage effectively ends childhood for the 12 million girls who are married each year, according to the latest UNICEF data, and is costing girls, and the world, too much.

In recognizing that adolescent girls face enormous barriers to accessing secondary education, including child marriage, the Keeping Girls in School Act will help the U.S. Government address these barriers through smart investments and coordination between U.S. Government agencies. The bill is designed to complement existing guidance and legislation on education and child marriage in U.S. foreign policy and programmatic efforts, such as the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls.

As organizations focused on multidimensional solutions to ending child marriage and addressing the needs of already married girls, we recognize that access to quality education is one of the best ways to delay age of marriage and to best equip girls for their futures.

The bill’s support for the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls recognizes that efforts to keep girls in school and overcome barriers to their education requires us to look at girls’ lives holistically, with attention to rights, quality of education, health, safety, and harmful practices such as child marriage.

The Keeping Girls in School Act Reps. Susan (R-IN) Lois (D-FL) not only helps ensure girls can access to education, as is their right, but that also helps equip them with the tools and environmental factors necessary to thrive now and into adulthood.

Child marriage traps girls in a cycle of poverty

Too often, girls who marry early end their educations, and are forced or encouraged to prove their fertility by having children early and often before they or their bodies are ready.

Motherhood and lack of access to a full range of educational and economic opportunities related to child marriage often traps girls in a cycle of poverty. Children born to child brides are more likely to face malnutrition and stunting than are the children borne to older peers.

Girls married as children are also more likely to experience intimate partner violence, and for those married at 15 and below, they are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and other health issues.

Today, there are 15 million girls of primary-school age who will never even enter a classroom, half of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. It is legislation like the Keeping Girls in School Act that brings much needed attention to the barriers such as child marriage that perpetuate poverty and abuses against girls worldwide.

Girls Not Brides USA is pleased to support the Keeping Girls in School Act and welcomes the House introduction of this important bill. (For a full list of endorsing organizations, please click here).

About Girls Not Brides USA

Girls Not Brides USA includes more than 60 US-based organisations committed to working together to end child, early, and forced marriage worldwide. Girls Not Brides USA is an affiliate of the Girls Not Brides global partnership, which includes more than 1,000 civil society organisations from 95 countries.

Members of Girls Not Brides USA are leading the fight to end child marriage around the world by working at the community, national, regional and global levels, in advocacy, research and direct programming. Through our diverse coalition, we tackle child marriage from every angle and on every continent. In the US, Girls Not Brides USA was a leading voice in the creation of the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls and ensuring ending child marriage was a central tenant of the Strategy.

For more information about Girls Not Brides USA or child marriage, please contact the Girls Not Brides USA Co-Chairs: