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PRESS RELEASE: On International Day of the Girl, Girls Not Brides urges governments to implement the new global target to end child marriage they committed to at the United Nations

As the global community marks International Day of the Girl Child, on 11 October 2015, Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage calls on governments around the world to develop, implement and fund policies, programmes, and plans to end child marriage.

If we do not act now, the number of women married as children is set to soar to 1.2 billion by 2050.

Girls Not Brides has launched its #MyLifeAt15 campaign to remind governments of the 15 million girls every year whose ambitions are thwarted when they are married as children. The campaign follows the recent adoption of the first global target to eliminate childearly and forced marriage as part of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

The International Day of the Girl Child was declared by the United Nations in 2011 as a day to recognise girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.

Lakshmi Sundaram, Executive Director of Girls Not Brides, said, “Child marriage was a taboo subject just a few years ago. Now, we are delighted to see a target on ending child marriage in the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, but it’s not enough for governments to agree on targets to end child marriage. If we truly want to see a change in the lives of the 15 million girls married every year, governments have to live up to their commitments.

That’s why we launched a global campaign called #MyLifeAt15, which aims to bridge the gap between the international community and the girls whose lives are devastated by child marriage. By showcasing the diverse dreams and aspirations of girls around the world at the age of 15, we are highlighting to world leaders how becoming a bride can bring an abrupt stop to a girl’s future, particularly when she has to give up on her education and bear children before she is physically and psychologically ready.”

  • Approximately 15 million girls are married every year before they reach 18 years. If we do not take action, 1.2 billion girls will be married as children by 2050
  • 1 in 3 girls in the developing world are married by age 18, and 1 in 9 are married by age 15.
  • Child marriage occurs around the world: 45% of girls under 18 are married in South Asia; 40% in sub-Saharan Africa; 29% in Latin America and the Caribbean; 18% in the Middle East and North Africa; and in some communities in Europe and North America too. (UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2015)

The impact of child marriage

Child marriage is not only a gross human rights violation, it also undermines the achievement of many of the international community’s development priorities.

  • Ending child marriage will help to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health
    • Complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19 in low and middle income countries; 90% of adolescent births in the developing world are to girls who are already married.
    • In low and middle income countries, babies born to mothers under 20 years of age have a 50% higher risk of being stillborn or of dying within the first few weeks of life than those born to older women. They are more likely to have a low birth weight which can cause long-term health effects.
  • Child marriage undermines a child’s right to education
    • With secondary schooling, girls are up to six times less likely to marry as children when compared with girls who have little or no education.
  • Child marriage entrenches gender inequality
    • Girls who marry before the age of 18 are more likely to experience violence within marriage than girls who marry later.
  • Child marriage perpetuates poverty and impacts national productivity
    • Girls who marry young are more likely to be poor and remain poor. They do not receive the educational and economic opportunities that help lift them and their families out of poverty.

Timeline of recent UN commitments in child marriage policy

On the 25 September 2015, as part of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, 193 United Nations member states adopted for the first time a global target to eliminate childearly and forced marriage (target 5.3). It signifies recognition that ending child marriage is pivotal to protecting the needs and rights of adolescent girls.

On 2 July 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a resolution co-sponsored by over 85 States to strengthen efforts to prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriage. The resolution was the first-ever substantive resolution on child marriage adopted by the Council.

It recognised child marriage as a violation of human rights “that prevents individuals from living their lives free from all forms of violence” and that has “wide ranging and adverse consequences on the enjoyment of human rights, such as the right to education, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health”. The resolution also recognises child marriage as a “barrier to sustainable development” that “helps to perpetuate the cycle of poverty”.

For interview requests or images and case studies from #MyLifeAt15, please contact Maryam Mohsin, Communications Officer +44 7436 095 435 

Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage is a global partnership of over 500 civil society organisations from more than 70 countries, committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfil their potential.