The decisions to remove a girl from school or for her to marry early 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 drivers. They are:
- Inequality and discriminatory gender norms. Child marriage and the lack of educational opportunities for girls are rooted in gender inequality. This inequality denies girls and women their human rights and leads to a preference for the education of boys, child marriage and early pregnancy, and sexual and gender-based violence.
- Poverty. Economic pressures – combined with gender norms that undervalue girls’ education – can cause girls to drop out of school to take on work or care responsibilities more often than boys. In many countries, there is not enough funding for education and families have to pay school fees and other indirect costs. Girls are more likely to be taken out of school than their brothers when families struggle to pay.
- Adolescent pregnancy. Adolescent pregnancy is strongly linked with school dropout and exclusion for adolescent girls in many regions. Many adolescent mothers do not return to school after giving birth because their school excludes them, they lack childcare options, their families do not let them, or they don’t feel able to face the stigma and judgement of their classmates and teachers. Some countries ban pregnant girls from returning to school. Find out more on our adolescent pregnancy learning page.
- School-related gender-based violence. The risk of violence in and on the way to school can make families less willing to let girls go. A lack of single-sex sanitation facilities can increase the risk of school-related gender-based violence, leading to disrupted studies and early school leaving. Find out more on our gender-based violence learning page.
- Conflict and humanitarian crises. Schools are often the target of direct attacks, and girls are at particular risk of sexual violence, trafficking and violence aimed at stopping their education. Girls are less likely than boys to return to school after conflict because families fear sexual violence and general insecurity. Find out more on our humanitarian learning page.
- COVID-19. The impact of school closures and economic pressures during the pandemic means we are less likely to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets of ending child marriage and ensuring that all girls have access to 12 years of quality education by 2030. Find out more on our COVID-19 learning page.