Over the past decade, millions of girls have enjoyed greater freedoms, opportunities and powers to decide and direct their own lives. Change has been incremental, gaining momentum as Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage has grown in size, experience and influence.
On our tenth anniversary, six reasons to join us on our journey are:
1. Measurable, large-scale change is possible
Globally, child marriage prevalence  has declined by around 15 percent since 2010. That means 25 million girls have avoided child marriage over the last decade [i] But progress has been uneven, and unless we accelerate change, 100 million more girls will marry as children before 2030 [ii] even without accounting for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will use the evidence we have gathered to galvanise the Partnership and move forwards.
2. Our Partnership is stronger than ever
In just 10 years, our Partnership has grown from only 50 member organisations to over 1,500 from all over the world. These diverse organisations have pooled their experience, harnessing the power of the collective to catalyse change.
3. Leaders around the world are taking action
When Girls Not Brides was launched in 2011, child marriage was not on the political agenda. Now, leaders around the world have stepped up commitments to end child marriage and promote gender equality. Girls Not Brides member organisations have been instrumental in advocating and holding their governments to account for these commitments. More donor governments and private foundations have also declared support, and Girls Not Brides continues to work with them to diversify funding and fill gaps.
4. We have built consensus on how to end child marriage
We have strengthened global understanding of why child marriage happens, its impacts and what works to end it. As a result, we are in a stronger position to advocate for investment and support for the strategies that will most effectively prevent child marriage, support married girls and achieve gender equality. Our Theory of Change shows the range and combination of approaches needed, and the role everyone has to play.
5. We have validated and strengthened our approach
We have tested our Theory of Change, drawing on the experience of our member organisations to provide further evidence of what works to end child marriage. We have become bolder, shifting to gender-transformative action that dismantles the structures that discriminate against girls and drive child marriage; we have engaged families and communities – including boys and men and traditional and religious leaders – to support this change and feel its benefits in their own lives; we have deepened our understanding of how to provide services that prioritise girls’ needs and empower them to fulfil their potential, even in humanitarian settings; and we have built on early legal changes to call for holistic, well-funded national policies and programmes to end child marriage and ensure gender equality.
6 . We know what still needs to be done
The last decade has been a time of great success not only for the global Partnership, but also for the broader movement to end child marriage. However, with 12 million more girls marrying each year [iii] – and even more at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic – our work is far from done.
For the movement to be effective and to end child marriage – so together we can ensure ours is the last generation where girls become brides – we need more and better targeted funding, political will and collective action that delivers on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We must put girls at the centre, transform social norms, focus on scale and support civil society movements to drive change at all levels.
The pathway to zero child marriages is long, but we have the experiences, learnings and connections built over the last decade to keep moving forwards until, finally, every girl is free to reach her full potential in every aspect of her life.
1 .The standard indicator for measuring child marriage is prevalence. This is defined as the percentage of women aged 20-24 married or in a union before the age of 18.
- i UNICEF, 2021a COVID-19: A threat to progress against child marriage.
- ii Ibid.
- iii UNICEF, 2021b, Child marriage database.