PRESS RELEASE: Progress made to end child marriage over the last 5 years, must be matched by action, says new report from Girls Not Brides

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Wednesday 21 September 2016

LONDON – Today Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 600 civil society organisations working to end child marriage, has launched its first progress report entitled: “It takes a movement: Reflecting on five years of progress towards ending child marriage”. The report marks the 5th year anniversary of Girls Not Brides and finds that although significant global, regional and national commitments have been made to end child marriage, commitments are yet to be matched by action.

Today the 15 million girls who are married each year are no longer invisible and their voices are getting stronger by the day. But this report reminds us that there is still much more to do. We need to focus on creating a groundswell of action, in countries, communities and families around the world. This is the only way we will be able to achieve the type of long-term and tangible changes that will allow girls everywhere in the world to live their lives free from child marriage” said Lakshmi Sundaram, Executive Director, Girls Not Brides.

Progress to date includes:                         

  1. A rise in the number of global and regional commitments to end child marriage. This was marked by the inclusion of a target to end child marriage in 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, as well as resolutions adopted at the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council. Both the African Union and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation have also set out plans of action to end child marriage.
  2. National strategies to end child marriage have either been developed or in the process of being developed in 14 countries, and many other countries have taken steps to strengthen laws to address child marriage.
  3. There has been an increase in the number of programmes aimed at addressing child marriage launched by UNICEF, UNFPA, as well as by international NGOs and community based organisations.
  4. Girls Not Brides: the Global Partnership to End Child Marriage has grown to over 600 members in over 80 countries, and has support from parliamentarians, youth activists, and celebrities, signifying that child marriage is no longer a taboo subject, but is now an issue of international concern.

However, without government accountability, funding, and integrated efforts to address child marriage, including through education, health, humanitarian, and livelihoods programming, the number of girls married as children will hit a staggering 1.2 billion by 2050.

The main causes of child marriage are multifaceted and complex. Girls are often perceived as having less value than boys, and are seen as a burden on families. Poverty also drives child marriage as it allows poor families to secure a ‘bride price’ and reduce family expenses by ensuring they have one less person to feed, clothe and educate. During conflicts or insecurity, parents marry their daughters young because they feel it is in her best interest, often to ensure her safety in areas where girls are at high risk of harassment and physical or sexual assault. Child marriage is also often an unquestioned traditional practice that has happened for generations. In some communities, menstruation marks a girl’s entry into adulthood, and marriage is traditionally the next step.

Seven crucial steps to end child marriage:

  1. Governments must be held accountable for their international, regional and national commitments, in particular to developing ambitious plans for implementing target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals with clear indicators for progress.
  2. Policies, programmes and plans to end child marriage and support married girls must be developed, implemented and funded, in partnership with civil society and other key stakeholders. This might involve the development of targeted national strategies and/or integration of child marriage into related strategies for girls and children.
  3. Case studies showing what works should be shared through the media, civil society organisations and research. These could include individuals overcoming child marriage; communities who have united to promote a better future for their girls, policy change or programmatic initiatives which have had a large-scale impact; and regions and countries where child marriage has been tackled in a holistic and comprehensive manner.
  4. The movement to end child marriage must grow and strengthen – new stakeholders, such as the private sector, should be engaged; new partnerships developed and young people should continue to  be placed front and centre.
  5. Sectors, such as those addressing education, health or violence – at global, regional, national and local levels, must integrate a focus on ending child marriage into their work.
  6. Policy makers and practitioners must learn from what works and what does not so that efforts to end child marriage are based on the latest evidence.
  7. Funding for efforts which prevent child marriage and support married girls must be increased, and support must be increased for grassroots groups working directly with those affected. In particular, investment must be targeted towards education and health programmes for girls, as well as in initiatives which tackle social norm change over the long term.

For interviews with Lakshmi Sundaram please contact Maryam Mohsin, Communications Officer, Girls Not Brides: media@GirlsNotBrides.org / +44 7436 095435

About Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage 

Girls Not Brides is a global partnership of more than 600 civil society organisations from over 80 countries united by a commitment to work in partnership to end child marriage and enable girls to fulfil their potential. In consultation with more than 150 members, partners and experts, Girls Not Brides created a common Theory of Change, which outlines the range of approaches needed to end child marriage.

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