Photo credit: Graham Crouch / Girls Not Brides
Every year, 12 million girls are married before their 18th birthday.
Child marriage perpetuates poverty, inequality and insecurity and is an obstacle to global development. A lack of attention to child marriage undermined the achievement of many of the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015). Since then, the international community has learned a lot.
Over 190 countries have adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and committed to ending child marriage by 2030.
For the first time, target 5.3 aims to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage”. This is an important tool to drive action, hold governments to account for their commitments to girls, and track progress on ending child marriage globally.
Ending child marriage is critical to achieving half of the SDGs.
Goal 1: No poverty
Child brides are more likely to be poor and to stay poor
Girls from poor families are two and a half times more likely to marry before 18 than girls from wealthier families.
Child marriage keeps girls poor by depriving them of opportunities, education and access to paid employment.
When girls have access to economic opportunities, they can plan a more prosperous future for themselves, their families and their communities!
Goal 2: Zero hunger
Child brides and their children are more likely to be malnourished
Families with little food may marry their daughters in order to have one mouth less to feed.
Child brides usually suffer higher rates of malnutrition, due to early and frequent pregnancies.
Babies born to girls younger than 15 are more likely to die before their 5th birthday, suffer from malnutrition and experience stunting.
Goal 3: Good health and wellbeing
Child marriage threatens girls’ health and that of their children
Child brides are under a lot of pressure to have children. Early pregnancy puts their health at risk: every year, 70,000 adolescent girls in developing countries die of causes related to pregnancy and child birth.
Child marriage can lead to poor mental health, including feelings of isolation, depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
Ending child marriage will improve girls’ health and wellbeing throughout their lives! More about child marriage and health.
Goal 4: Inclusive and quality education
Child marriage usually marks the end of a girl’s education
Marriage limits a girl’s ability to go to school, learn new skills and put the ones she has to use.
Being out of school puts girls at risk. Girls with no education are three times more likely to marry before 18 compared to girls with a secondary or higher education.
Education is one of the most powerful tools to end child marriage and help girls succeed in life! More about child marriage and education.
Goal 5: Gender equality
Child marriage keeps us from achieving gender equality
Child marriage is rooted in inequality between men and women and discriminatory views towards a girl’s value, sexuality and role in society.
Ending child marriage is a strategic way of tackling gender inequality and shifting the discriminatory norms that perpetuate child marriage.
We need to empower girls so they can choose if, when and whom they marry!
Goal 8: Economic growth
Child brides are less likely to lead prosperous lives
Child brides are less likely to participate in the workforce once they become adults. When they do, it’s usually in lower skilled and lower paid jobs.
When girls have the skills and opportunities to secure a job, they can support themselves and their families and break the cycle of poverty.
Child marriage is costing countries trillions of dollars through its impact on fertility, population growth, earnings and child health, according to the World Bank and ICRW.
Goal 10: Reduce inequalities
Child marriage affects the most vulnerable populations
Child marriage disproportionately affects poor, rural and disadvantaged girls, creating cycles of poverty that reinforce inequalities.
Child brides have little decision-making power in their homes or communities and are less likely to participate fully in society. They are often marginalised and hard to reach.
Leaving no one behind means targeting married girls and girls at risk of child marriage.
Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions
We will not end violence against children without ending child marriage.
Child marriage is a form of violence against girls and a violation of their most fundamental human rights.
Child brides often face violence at the hands of their partners or their in-laws, especially if there is a large age difference.
The violence of forced sexual initiation and early pregnancy have a lasting impact on married girls’ physical and mental health throughout their life.
Ending violence against children needs to go hand in hand with ending child marriage. More about child marriage and violence against girls.