International aid agency, World Vision is calling for urgent action to prevent 110 million girls from being forced into child marriage by 2035.
Its new report ‘Fighting for a Future’ has tracked the opportunities of young girls in 40 low and middle-income countries, including the 20 with the highest rates of child marriage.
52 percent of girls in countries with the lowest opportunity levels will be forced into child marriage.
It predicts that 52 percent of girls in countries with the lowest opportunity levels will be forced into child marriage.
Education was the single biggest indicator of a girl’s opportunity and of her reduced risk of child marriage. A child that lives within a country with the lowest education opportunities is 60 percent more likely to be a child bride, compared to a child that lives in a country with the highest level of educational opportunities.
The report reveals stark disparities, even between neighboring countries. A girl born in Namibia, with a child marriage rate of 7 percent, will have 1.3 times more opportunities than if she were born in neighboring Mozambique, with a child marriage rate of 53 percent. A woman is eight times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy in a low-opportunity country compared to a high-opportunity country.
Dana Buzducea, World Vision’s Partnership Leader for Advocacy and External Engagement says it’s urgent.
“I want us to imagine a child that we know that was married, often to an older man and had to enter a new world of adulthood, way too soon. Now, think about the reality that 12 million girls around the world are being married every year already,” Buzducea states. “That’s shocking and what concerns us is that in the upcoming years, it is expected that an additional 10 million girls will be married off due to the impact of the pandemic lockdowns and the economic situation that we are all seeing around us. There is also a hunger crisis such as the one in East Africa that will only exacerbate this because it will force families to make very tough decisions for their survival.
“If a girl doesn’t have an educational opportunity, that limits her ability to have economic opportunities later in life, and that exposes her to an increased risk of being married early. Think about her children being raised in a poor family. The girl is at huge risk of being in an abusive relationship, very likely to have early pregnancy and birth complications, sometimes leading to deaths. So what can such a young mother provide to her children later in life?”
World Vision wants governments and donors to address all facets of girls’ opportunities, including empowering girls, ensuring access to education, and prioritizing inclusive economic development.
Andrew Morley, World Vision International President & CEO, said: “Child marriage robs girls of their God-given potential in an instant, forcing them into a life of heart-breaking abuse and violence. Our staff are on the frontline right across the world empowering and protecting children, teaching them their rights, and ensuring they stay in school. I have seen for myself how equipping children themselves to change community attitudes is so successful.”
“Yet much of this abuse continues in the shadows, and we need more support to tackle this injustice. We owe it to all girls everywhere to ensure they enjoy their childhoods free from abuse, are educated and have equal opportunities to excel no matter where in the world they are born.”
Dana Buzducea tells Premier Christians can make a difference to the situation :
“It will be amazing if we as Christians can join in prayer to stop the evolution of this alarming number of child marriages around the world. If we can pray for government’s wisdom so that they do prioritize investing in protecting children to prevent child marriages from happening in the first instance.”
You can read the full report here : Fighting for a Future – girls’ opportunities | It Takes A World | World Vision International (wvi.org)
7 Facts About Child Marriage in Africa
- Children marry as young as 7 and 8 years old. The U.N. estimates that every day around 37,000 girls under the age of 18 are married. Of the girls forced into marriage, one in three girls experience child marriage before the age of 18 and one in nine experience it before the age of 15. UNICEF estimates that if no change occurs, the rate of child marriages in Africa alone may double by 2050.
- Girls often experience suppressed education. Most girls who are in a child marriage do not get an education higher than the mandated primary education of grades one through nine. This is due to social stereotypes that categorize girls as domestic wives who stay in the home to cook, clean and bear children. Another reason is that most child marriages take place in poverty-stricken areas and they cannot afford to pay for an education or do not have access to education near them.
- Children involved in child marriages are at greater risk of domestic violence. A high percentage of girls in a child marriage experience domestic and sometimes sexual violence. According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), girls who marry before the age of 18 are twice as likely to experience domestic violence when compared to girls who marry after the age of 18. Many girls cannot escape this violence because of poverty and the lack of education.
- Having a daughter is seen as a burden in Africa. Most child marriages take place in poverty-stricken areas where families consider daughters to be economic and financial burdens. Many families, wanting to make up for the money they put into raising a daughter, require a dowry for their daughter’s marriage. The high cost of a dowry means that most men will work for years to save up for a wife. As a result, most child marriages are between a young girl and a much older man.
- Child brides have a greater risk of contracting HIV and other STDs. Since men are typically much older when they marry a child bride, they tend to have had multiple partners before they are married. As a result, girls involved in child marriages are more susceptible to contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, research found that many young people lack the proper knowledge of HIV and other STDs and safe sexual education. Sex education is a mandatory curriculum in Africa, but religious and cultural taboos prevent schools from properly teaching this curriculum. In 2015, the Department of Basic Education began developing lesson plans for grades seven through nine that properly educate children about safe sex and STDs.
- Many child brides face high-risk pregnancies. Since girls marry at such young ages, many girls have high-risk pregnancies due to their underdeveloped bodies. As a result, they often have a difficult childbirth. Additionally, pregnancy lessens the body’s immune system, leaving young girls easily susceptible to illnesses such as malaria. Malaria is harder to treat when one is HIV positive and can lead to death in young pregnant girls.
- Ultimately, child marriage violates human rights. Child marriages involving boys is significantly more rare than those involving girls. The primary difference in a marriage involving young boys is they do not pose the same health risks as girls. However, child marriages between both sexes take away a child’s basic human rights. In 1948, in an attempt to discourage child marriages, the U.N. declared child marriage an act against human rights, as stated in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.