Every year, an estimated 10 million girls are married before they reach 18, the age below which people are defined as children by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Child marriage occurs all around the world – but 1 in 3 girls in the developing world are estimated to be married before the age of 18.
Child marriage violates girls’ basic rights to health, education, security and choice about when and whom they marry. Early pregnancy is often an outcome of early marriage, which can have tragic consequences. Girls who give birth between the ages of 15–19 are twice as likely to die from pregnancy and birth related causes than women in their 20s; and for girls under the age of 15 the risk is five times higher than for women in their 20s. Of the girls that do survive pregnancy and childbirth, many are left with long-term injuries.
White Ribbon Alliance Point of View
The reasons that child marriage is prevalent in many societies are varied and complex. They vary across and even within countries. Cultural factors, entrenched social practices, economic pressures and gender inequality are underlying causes of children being forced into marriage. Child marriage impedes the achievement of six of the eight Millennium Development Goals – including MDG 5, to improve maternal health. As long as young girls are driven into marriage prematurely, the high maternal death rate in that population will not fall. WRA is committed to working towards ending the practice of child marriage.
What We Are Doing
- White Ribbon Alliance is encouraging an increased focus on efforts to prevent child marriage linked to broader safe motherhood outcomes, sharing information on activities and opportunities, and providing guidance on national-level advocacy strategies.
- White Ribbon Alliance is collaborating with Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage to increase awareness of the harmful impact of child marriage and put pressure on national governments in high-prevalence countries to strengthen commitments and action to end the practice of child marriage.
Advocacy in Action: Preventing Child Marriage in Yemen
Elham Mahdi Shuee had been married for just three days when she died from injuries caused by sexual intercourse. Elham was 12 years old.
According to Jamila Ghalib, General Secretary of the WRA in Yemen, known as the National Safe Motherhood Alliance (NSMA), “girls can get married as young as aged nine in Yemen, with the average woman giving birth to seven babies. Mothers under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die during birth, and their babies often also die.
“Our campaign to save lives of mothers in Yemen began in July 2007. Almost all Government Ministries in Yemen are represented in our Alliance. We are pushing for a Safe Motherhood Bill to go through Parliament, to end Female Genital Cutting and to make it illegal for girls to be married before the age of 18. We are advocating and discussing these issues with colleagues in Government – and the media.”
Short silent film produced by NSMA on early marriage
|Atlas of Birth|
Married Too Soon
|Stories of Mothers Lost
- Child Marriage – At the Heart of Change for Women
Samjhana Phuyal, of Nepal’s White Ribbon Alliance (the Safe Motherhood Network Federation), describes how child marriage still haunts her own family.
- Help Us End Child Marriage
White Ribbon Alliance celebrates the first International Day of the Girl Child by calling on our membership to join us in 11 days of action to call for an end to child marriage.