This brief provides a broad overview of the causes and consequences of child marriage, potential strategies to delay the age of marriage and meet the needs of married children, and factors to consider when assessing where investment is needed and where change is most feasible.

More than ever before, there is global awareness of child marriage and its implications for both human rights and a range of development outcomes. The marriage of a girl, often to a much older spouse, effectively ends a girl’s childhood, curtails her education, increases her risk of domestic violence, and puts her at risk for early, frequent, and very high-risk pregnancies. Her lack of mobility, education, and economic opportunities also means that her family is more likely to be poor and unhealthy. Child marriage is both a cause and a consequence of poverty and gender inequality – reflecting and reinforcing limited economic opportunities and discriminatory gender norms.

In order to turn the tide on child marriage, a coordinated and focused effort by donors, policymakers, and practitioners is needed to build girls’ health, social, and economic assets and to promote gender-equitable and pro-girl social norms.

This brief, co-written by IWHC and our partners at Girls Not Brides USA, outlines strategies that have been identified as the most predominant and high-potential approaches for addressing child marriage. They are often, and most effectively, implemented in tandem.

These strategies include:

  • Working directly with married girls or girls at-risk for early marriage, and offering them information, skills, and support networks.
  • Educating and mobilizing parents, religious or traditional leaders, and community members.
  • Enhancing the accessibility and quality of schooling for girls.
  • Offering economic support and incentives for girls and their families.
  • Fostering an enabling legal and policy framework.

The brief also offers recommendations on how and where to prioritize investments to make the most impact globally to end child marriage.