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To end child marriage, we need to listen to grassroots activists

Opening of the Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

National and community-based organisations’ work with communities, married girls and girls at-risk of child marriage gives them a valuable insight into what’s needed to end the practice.

They know the problems their communities face better than anyone else. The onus is on world leaders to listen to them.

But without the funding and resources available to larger NGOs, their voices are often absent from the global forums where international policies and strategies are set.

We sponsored members from Guatemala, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal and Uganda to attend the Commission on the Status of Women 2019 (CSW). This annual two-week meeting in New York brings together governments, UN entities and civil society to discuss the challenges and opportunities for achieving gender equality.

What did Girls Not Brides members do at CSW?

Each member came to CSW as part of their government delegation, allowing them access to decision-makers and a space to influence and share their expertise on child marriage.

Without these voices, the international community risks losing out on key inputs from those working at the heart of the issue.

“It was an opportunity to showcase what ending child marriage looks like within the Kenyan context and show the world that we must invest more in the protection of the African girl who does not have a voice and is at risk of being married off, as they do not have the power to say NO to CHILD MARRIAGE.” Brenda Dora, Kenya

Our team with Girls Not Brides members at CSW.

The global community must listen to civil society

Including community and national organisations in global forums like CSW helps civil society to engage with their governments and the international community to drive change for girls and women.

They have the opportunity to influence decisions made about child marriage. They can also meet and learn from activists in other countries and regions, to strengthen each others’ work.

4 key takeaways from CSW:

CSW concluded with strong statements on child marriage and the rights of adolescent girls.

  1. The Commission condemned all forms of violence against women and girls, including harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage, which are ‘pervasive, under-recognised and underreported, particularly at the community level’.
  2. The Commission highlighted child marriage as one of the gender-specific barriers to girls’ equal enjoyment of their right to education.
  3. The Commission called for the elimination of harmful practices, such as ‘child, early and forced marriage, which may have long-term effects on girls’ and women’s lives, health and bodies, including increased vulnerability to violence and sexually transmitted diseases and which continue to persist in all regions of the world despite the increase in national, regional and international efforts’.
  4. The Commission called for universal and timely registration of births and marriages by removing barriers impeding access and providing mechanisms for registration.

Read the full CSW 63 Agreed Conclusions