VIDEO: Child marriage stands in the way of girls’ education

This video is part of the No Ceilings: the Full Participation Project.

Millions of girls around the world are expected to marry, not study. At the age of 8, Pramila was engaged. Now 17, she dreads the moment when she will have to leave school to live with her husband.

“Around 80% of the girls in Pramila’s class are already married. They are studying now but at any point, they will be sent to live with their husband’s family and their education could stop immediately. In a way, their futures are hanging by a thread”, explains Usha Choudhary, the founder of Vikalp Sansthan, an organisation that supports girls like Pramila and promotes girls’ education in Rajasthan, India.

Usha is all too familiar with this situation. At the age of 14, her parents decided it was time for her to marry and drop out of school: “I was engaged at 14. I saw many child brides who faced terrible violence. They did not have any education, so they were dependent and could not escape. This is why I could not go through with my marriage. I realised that I would rather commit suicide than marry as a child.”

Usha broke off the marriage and put herself through school: she worked in a school in the mornings and attended classes in the afternoons. Years later, she founded Vikalp Sansthan to prevent girls from ever being forced into marriage.

It is the work of civil society activists like Usha that make a difference in girls’ lives.

Once a child bride, Usha is now an educator in her community – going from one house to another, talking to families about the importance of educating their daughters. Girls like Pramila look up to her for guidance and support:

“Usha says she will help me if I decide to break the marriage. I do not want to go live with my in-laws. I want to study. Girls want to learn and to shine in life but society doesn’t allow it. I do not want people to say I’m just a girl. I want to be an inspiration.”

Girls want to learn and to shine in life but society doesn’t allow it. I do not want people to say I’m just a girl. I want to be an inspiration.

Facts on child marriage and education:

Child marriage and education are intrinsically linked. The practice of child marriage continuously undermines efforts to improve girls’ education:

  • Girls who are married young are often taken out of school, while girls who drop out of school are more likely to be married off.
  • Married girls who would like to continue schooling are often practically and legally excluded from doing so.
  • Over 60% of women (20-24) with no education were married before 18.

At the same time, keeping girls in school is a critical strategy in ending child marriage:

  • The longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to be married before the age of 18 and have children during her teenage years.
  • In fact, girls who have secondary education are up to six times less likely to marry while children.
  • It’s important that schools are accessible, safe, and of quality and offer comprehensive sexual reproductive health education that explicitly addresses girls’ rights and gender inequality.

About the No Ceilings initiative

2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, during which governments and civil society came together and committed to ensuring that women and girls have the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of life.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the No Ceilings Initiative have joined forced to gather data and analyse the gains made for women and girls over the last two decades, as well as the gaps that remain. Despite progress, child marriage continues to hold back millions of women and girls around the world.

Visit the No Ceilings website: http://noceilings.org/child-marriage/