United for impact – How Girls Not Brides members worked together in 2014

Girls Not Brides members at the Girl Summit 2014 in London. Photo credit: Girls Not Brides.

As I look back at our work with members of Girls Not Brides in 2014, I am more convinced than ever by the power and potential of partnership.

Girls Not Brides is a partnership of over 400 civil society organisations that are based in more than 60 countries. Pooling together the expertise and experience of hundreds of members enables us to catalyse efforts to end child marriage around the world. And what a year it has been!

Collective advocacy brings grassroots voices to global discussions

Girls Not Brides members range from small community-based groups to large international organisations. Informed by their experiences working day-in, day-out to support and empower girls and their families, they know what it will take to end child marriage.

With growing international attention on child marriage and what must be done to end it, Girls Not Brides members came together to ensure that the voice and experience of grassroots groups are heard in global discussions.

Nearly 150 members from 45 countries co-signed a letter to the co-chairs of the Open Working Group (OWG) in July, urging them to maintain a target on child, early and forced marriage in the post-2015 development framework, the framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals next year.

And in October, nearly 200 members from over 45 countries sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General, stressing that child marriage target must be included in Sustainable Development Goals. Encouragingly, the UN Secretary General called for “child, early and forced marriage to be ended everywhere” in his report on post-2015.

These letters were an important opportunity for Girls Not Brides to link the voices from the grassroots and national levels to global discussions on what a new development framework for the international community could look like.

“Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk” Girls Not Brides members urge governments to make meaningful commitments to end child marriage

In July 2014, the UK government and UNICEF hosted the first ever Girl Summit. Ahead of the Summit, more than 50 Girls Not Brides members from 29 countries aligned their messages and strategies to speak with a unified voice about the support that is needed if we are to end child marriage in a generation.

They urged both governments from donor countries and countries where rates of child marriage are high, to move beyond declarations that child marriage is a problem to making meaningful commitments, funding and programming for the long term.

After the Summit, Girls Not Brides members returned to their respective countries with a plan of action for how to follow up and hold their government to account for the commitments that they made.

The time for action is now: growing global movement determined to end child marriage 

In the lead-up to Day of the African Child in June, only weeks after the African Union launched its first-ever Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa, Girls Not Brides members in Africa advocated for child marriage being an integral element in Africa’s development agenda.

Together, members stressed that child marriage must be urgently addressed and that if nothing is done, by 2050 Africa will become the region with the highest number of child brides. Their message was heard loud and clear, and several members were covered by leading media outlets such as allAfrica, Trust.org, BBC Afrique and The Huffington Post.

On International Day of the Girl on 11 October, and during the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence in November-December, members seized the opportunity to highlight in unison the urgency of addressing child marriage, reminding governments and other key actors about the importance of ending the harmful practice if we are to be successful in our efforts to end violence against women and girls.

Strengthening grassroots fundraising efforts to grow end child marriage work sustainably

In 2014, members developed their fundraising capacity through online training sessions designed for Girls Not Brides members and delivered by GlobalGiving UK. Many also seized the opportunity to join an online fundraising challenge to secure a permanent spot on GlobalGiving’s crowdfunding platform.

Members shared with each other their experiences of using online funding platforms and tips for others looking to do the same thing: Funding droughts and online solutions: How we crowdfunded our project to end child marriage

It was fantastic to see that several member projects were fully funded, which means that more work to address child marriage can be done, changing the lives of many more girls around the world.

Girls Not Brides members catalyse change in countries where child marriage is common

Girls Not Brides Nepal members have played a crucial role in supporting the development of a national strategy to end child marriage, together with the Government of Nepal. Developing a national action plan will be crucial in Nepal where as many as two in five girls are married as children, and the work of Girls Not Brides members together with the government and other partners, could pave the way for other countries looking to achieve nationwide change.

In a number of countries, Girls Not Brides member organisations have come together as official National Partnerships of Girls Not Brides, formulating a collective strategy in line with the global objectives of Girls Not Brides. In 2014, Girls Not Brides national partnerships were formed and officially approved by our Board in Ghana, Mozambique, and United Kingdom.

Several other groups of members have similarly expressed an interest to formalise their relationship with Girls Not Brides, and the secretariat will be enthusiastically following these developments in the coming months.

Looking forward to 2015!

After such a fantastic year, one can only look forward with excitement to 2015. One of the key membership activities in the new year will be the first ever Girls Not Brides global member meeting which will take place in Casablanca, Morocco in May. Apply here.

This will be followed by collective commemoration of Day of the African Child in June, which has the official theme “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”.

Needless to say, our partnership-wide advocacy efforts around the post-2015 framework will continue and peer-to-peer capacity building opportunities will help strengthen our collective efforts to bring about a world without child marriage, among a host of other exciting plans for collective membership work in the new year!

I would love to hear from Girls Not Brides members: what were your 2014 highlights?