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Empowering Girls is Key to Ending Child Marriage

Women's, Children's Groups Warn of Negative Consequences of Child Marriage
Women's, Children's Groups Warn of Negative Consequences of Child Marriage

A new report highlights strategies to end child marriage, a harmful practice that turns millions of young girls worldwide into child brides.

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) launched the report in Washington and hosted a panel discussion that included international NGOs and humanitarian agencies.

The ICRW said the groups explored successful programs in Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia and India that focused on empowering girls, preventing child marriage and mitigating its harmful effects among an estimated 15 million girls.

Violating human rights of girls

“That’s 15 million girls whose human rights are violated when they are forced into marriage” says Ann Warner, a senior gender and youth specialist for ICRW. “Not only are those individualized girls’ lives compromised—their health, their futures, their aspirations and their well-being—but that also has really profound implications for the health of their families, their future children and the communities.”

Warner said they analyzed a few programs that work directly with the girls who are either at risk of being married as children, or who are already married.

The programs work with girls in group settings, providing them with a variety of information.

“What we found is that these kinds of activities for girls really do help them a lot,” said Warner.

The success of these programs shows in the girls themselves. Warner pointed out that the information they receive helps them to see themselves as contributors to the welfare of their families and communities. The programs also help to change the perceptions of others in their communities about the benefits of letting girls grow up and make their own choices about learning and contributing to the community.

“The programs also introduce alternatives for girls such as going back to school or staying in school, or seeking economic opportunities like small income-generating activities, or doing savings and loans with their peers,” explained Warner.

She also said that poverty plays a huge role in the choices girls and they families make regarding their lives.

“We know that parents everywhere want the best for their children. They want them to be educated and to be happy. But, in context where there are few alternatives for girls, extra support is often required to equip girls with this information, with new skills and with social support,” Warner said.

This year’s UN General Assembly included the issue of child marriage in events hosted by ICRW and their partners.

“Our goal is to make sure that ending child marriage is a priority in the next set of development goals that are being shaped right now,” said Warner.