Child marriage and education
Keeping girls in school is one of the best ways to prevent child marriage. Child marriage limits girls’ access to quality education. Here you will find key facts, impacts, common drivers and solutions on education and child marriage.
- Child marriage and girls’ lack of access to quality education are both rooted in gender inequality and the belief that girls and women are worth less than boys and men.
- There are two-way links between child marriage and girls’ education. Decisions around them are complex and influenced by a variety of factors.
- Keeping girls in school is one of the best ways of delaying marriage. On average, the likelihood of a girl marrying as a child is six percentage points less for every additional year she stays in secondary education. 
- Access to education affects marriage timing more than marriage affects access to education. Most girls drop out of school and then get married. 
- Education is a powerful path to gender equality, strengthening girls' skills, knowledge and power to challenge discriminatory gender norms. 
- School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic threaten progress towards gender equality. They have exposed girls to more gender-based violence, sexual exploitation, adolescent pregnancy and forced marriage. 
Impacts of child marriage on girls’ education
When a girl gets married, she is often expected to drop out of school, ending her formal education.
A girl is more likely to drop out of school during the preparatory time before her marriage or shortly after.
As a wife or mother, she is often expected to take care of the home, children and extended family.
Returning to school can be almost impossible for a married girl.
Married girls face many practical barriers to education, including household responsibilities, stigma, forced exclusion from school and gender norms that keep them at home.
Child marriage often results in adolescent pregnancy. A pregnant adolescent girl may drop out or be excluded from school because of national laws, a lack of support for re-enrolment and stigma. 
The younger the age at marriage, the greater the impact. Once married, a girl is very unlikely to remain in or return to school. 
-  Wodon, Q, et al., 2018, Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls, Washington, DC: The World Bank.
-  Malhotra, A., and Elnakib, S., 2021, “Evolution in the evidence base on child marriage: 2000-2019”, UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage.
-  Marcus, R., 2018, “Education and gender norm change”, ALIGN platform.
-  Wodon, Q., et al., 2018. Op. cit.
-  Human Rights Watch, 2018, Leave no girl behind in Africa: Discrimination in education against pregnant girls and adolescent mothers.
-  Wodon, Q, et al., 2017, Economic impacts of child marriage: Global synthesis brief, Washington, DC: The World Bank and International Center for Research on Women.
Links between child marriage and girl’s education
Insights on prioritising girls’ education
Education is a powerful strategy to end child marriage and ensure girls can fulfil their potential. The longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to be married before the age of 18 and have children during her teenage years.
The decisions to remove a girl from school or for her to marry as a child are often made at the same time and are influenced by many of the same factors. Work to end child marriage and keep girls in school needs to address these shared underlying factors.
Girls’ education and the SDGs
Governments worldwide have committed to achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Goal 4 includes targets for inclusive and equitable quality education, and promotes lifelong learning for all. The SDGs will not be met unless we address child marriage.
Find others working on child marriage and education
Use our member directory to find Girls Not Brides member organisations working on issues related to child marriage and girls’ education. You can contact organisations in your country or across the world to share best practice and learnings.
Girls’ education and child marriage
Brief exploring the key facts, two-way impacts, common drivers and solutions on education and child marriage. Updated in September 2022.
Girls’ education and COVID-19: What past shocks can teach us about mitigating the impacts of pandemics
This report uses insights from the 2014-15 Ebola epidemic and the 2008 global financial crisis to understand the consequences of COVID-19 for girls.
A new generation: 25 years of efforts for gender equality in education
Report on how inclusion in education can advance gender equality.
Leave no girl behind in Africa: Discrimination in education against pregnant girls and adolescent mothers
Report on pregnant girls’ and adolescent mothers’ right to education in Africa.