We shape global policies and work with local organizations to prevent early and forced marriage, and to ensure that vulnerable youth, including married and unmarried adolescent girls, can access the information and services they need. We advocate at the United Nations and in Washington, DC, to secure government commitments and funding to end the harmful practice of child marriage around the world.
“Child marriage” is generally understood to mean marriages that take place before age 18, but for many girls, marriage occurs much earlier. In some countries, girls as young as 7 or 8 are forced by their families to marry much older men. The reasons girls are married are diverse, and parents sometimes believe that through marriage, they are protecting their daughters and increasing their economic opportunities. However, child marriage exposes girls to increased health problems and violence, denies them access to social networks and support systems, and perpetuates a cycle of poverty and gender inequality.
In the Extreme North of Cameroon, where our partner APAD is based, nearly 80% of girls have experienced an early and forced marriage before the age of 18. APAD is led by young women who are survivors of child marriage. They work to empower girls like them, and to make sure survivors are able to tell their stories, demand social change, and survive on their own. In this video, these brave young women shared their stories and explained how they are working to end this harmful practice.
As African leaders gathered this week in Washington, D.C., for the White House’s first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, IWHC and the Girls Not Brides USA coalition held a panel discussion on the widespread problem of child marriage and called on governments to work together to end the practice.
Today, IWHC is joining world leaders and NGO partners at the Girl Summit to commit to do all we can to end child marriage and female genital mutilation.
On July 22, IWHC staff will join activists, community leaders, civil society organizations (CSOs), governments, and international organizations in London for Girl Summit 2014 to discuss how to end two of the most pressing human rights violations of our time: child, early, and forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM).
The President’s budget increased aid for family planning and reproductive health programming, but we’re disappointed that child marriage is only addressed under the heading of ending gender-based violence.