On March 7, 2013, President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), signifying a major victory for women and girls in the United States. In a rare show of bipartisanship, Congress came together to proclaim to the world that violence against women and girls will not be tolerated, no matter what form it takes or where it occurs.
Importantly, the 2013 VAWA calls for the United States government to play a leading role in ending child marriage around the world. In doing so, the U.S. government acknowledged the millions of girls who are married before they turn 18, in direct violation of their human right to choose if, when, and whom to marry. Specifically, the law mandates the State Department to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to end child marriage. This strategy would direct U.S. foreign assistance to programs in countries where child marriage is prevalent.
Yet, one year after the 2013 VAWA Reauthorization, 37,000 girls are still married each and every day and the strategy has yet to be developed. Girls cannot wait any longer. Advocacy groups have laid out several effective solutions to ending child marriage, but we need the political commitment to make it happen. The U.S. government, along with friends and allies, must move quickly to develop and implement the VAWA-mandated strategy and keep its promise to girls around the world.
The causes of child marriage are diverse and systemic—ranging from gender inequality, poverty, and religious and customary practices. As a result, the solutions to end child marriage must be equally diverse. In order to holistically address the many aspects of girls’ lives that are impacted by child marriage, a comprehensive U.S. strategy must address girls’ health, education, and economic empowerment, among other things, and meaningfully involve those who can contribute to lasting change, such as girls themselves, traditional leaders, men and boys, and educators. This strategy will be vital to ensuring that girls around the world are able to lead healthy, empowered, educated, and safe lives.
To encourage swift action, Girls Not Brides USA and the International Women’s Health Coalition are launching the #Lead4Girls campaign on Friday, March 7, to mark the first anniversary of the 2013 VAWA reauthorization. This months-long campaign calls on the U.S. government to fulfill its VAWA mandate and work with the rest of the world to end child marriage.
To show support for the campaign and for the millions of girls married now or who will be married this year, simply tweet one of the messages below. We hope you’ll participate in the campaign and check back often to learn how you can support girls around the world!
Sample Tweets for your participation: