Every day around the world, approximately 39,000 girls under the age of 18 get married, often against their will. An estimated 140 million girls will become child brides between 2011 and 2020. Girls who are married as children are robbed of their youth, their education, their health, and their futures.

As a key player in shaping global development priorities—priorities that include education, health care, food security, economic empowerment, and ending violence against women and girls—the United States has an important role in ending early and forced marriage worldwide. We can’t achieve real, sustainable development without protecting and securing the right of all girls to decide if, when, and whom they marry.

Passed on February 28, 2013, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) created a mandate for the U.S. State Department and other federal agencies to produce a comprehensive strategy to end child marriage. More than a year has passed since VAWA, and we are still waiting for that strategy.

On the one-year anniversary of the signing of VAWA, IWHC and Girls Not Brides USA launched #Lead4Girls, a campaign that calls on Secretary of State John Kerry to fulfill the State Department’s mandate under VAWA. We know what works to prevent child marriage and support girls who have already been forced to marry. Now is the time for the U.S. government to translate rhetoric into strategic policies and programs that have been proven to work.

Let’s give girls a choice, and a chance, for a real future. Join us in calling on Secretary Kerry to #Lead4Girls and end child worldwide.

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