Stand with girls
around the world
to end child marriage.
No girl should have to marry as a child.
Child marriage denies girls the freedom to make their own decisions, be in charge of their bodies, and to have choices and opportunities for their futures.
Yes, I want to stand with girls to end child marriage.
Every girl deserves the right to choose who, when – and if – she wants to marry.
Early and child marriage violates girls’ human rights and robs them of their childhood. Girls who are married before they turn 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence and are less likely to stay in school. And they are often forced to have children before they’re physically and emotionally ready.
Child marriage isn’t isolated to one culture, religion or group of people. It cuts across countries, cultures, religions and backgrounds. The root causes – which allow it to continue – are gender inequality, poverty, cultural norms and a lack of education.
We have the power to change this.
If every girl completed secondary education, there would be 60% fewer pregnancies in girls under the age of 17 in sub-Saharan Africa. And 12 years of education for every girls would reduce child marriage worldwide by 64%!
Education is one of the strongest and surest ways to end child marriage. By making sure every girl has the opportunity to go to – and complete – school, we are creating a world where girls have choices and opportunities to shape their own futures.
That’s why Plan International is working with girls in communities where child marriage occurs to make sure they know their rights. We’re supporting families to understand the risks of child marriage and to make sure girls’ voices are heard and valued. We also advocate to governments and policy-makers to ensure child marriage is outlawed, to help shift attitudes at a national level.
Stand with incredible girls and young women like Memory, Matu* & Sravani
When 19-year-old Memory’s younger sister was just 11, she became pregnant and was forced to marry the father of her unborn child.
“At the time, I was young, and thought this was normal,” Memory recalls. “But I quickly realised the devastating impact it had on her when she was further abused in marriage. When she came home, I saw the person who had been my little sister wasn’t my little sister anymore.” But thanks to Memory and other youth activists, child marriage is now illegal in Malawi!
In 2016 we launched a petition, asking people around the world to stand with Memory and other young activists in their campaign to close a loophole in Malawi’s constitution that enabled child marriage to continue. More than 42,000 people from around the world stood with the campaigners. And in February 2017 the government approved a bill to make child marriage illegal!
“When I got married, I had to leave school in order to take care of my husband. He was 35 and I was just 12 years old.”
17-year-old Matu* lives in the North West Province of Sierra Leone, and many girls find themselves in a similar situation, with almost 40% being married off before they turn 18. But now – with support from Plan International – she is fighting back.
As a member of the Girl Power Group she mentors younger girls, to ensure that they are aware of their rights and are empowered to speak out on the issues that affect them. Her dream is to become a lawyer so that she can fight for the rights of other girls who, like she almost was, are in danger of having their futures taken away from them.
*Name has been changed.
“So far, I have prevented no less than 10 child marriages and I have made sure that at least 50 children have been able to go back to school.”
Like so many girls, Sravani, who is now 19, was rejected by her father when she was born, simply because he wanted a son. Her mother left her abusive father and Sravani was forced to leave school. She got herself a job with the local council and also gave private lessons to other children during the evenings. After two years of this, her mother had recovered sufficiently to enable Sravani to return to school.
Sravani understands the power of education and now lobbies enthusiastically in her village to stop parents marrying off their young daughters and convincing them of the importance of education.
Why does child marriage happen?
- Lack of education: girls with no education are more likely to be married before the age of 18 than those with a secondary education.
- Gender inequality: girls and women often occupy a lower status as a result of social and cultural traditions, attitudes and beliefs that deny them their rights.
- Poverty: in families on a low income, girls may be seen as an economic burden. The perception that a girl’s potential to earn an income is comparatively poor pushes girls out of their homes and into marriage.
- Customs: in many countries, the importance of preserving family ‘honour’ and girls’ virginity means parents push their daughters into marriage before they’re ready. People believe marriage safeguards against ‘immoral’ or ‘inappropriate’ behaviour.
- Failure to enforce laws: sometimes families aren’t aware they’re breaking the law. In some countries early marriage is so prevalent, prosecutions are seldom brought.
- Conflicts, disasters and emergencies: disasters and emergencies increase economic pressures on households and many families who wouldn’t previously have considered early marriage turn to it as a last resort.
About Plan International Australia
Put simply, we’re the charity for girls’ equality.
We tackle the root causes of poverty, support communities through crisis, campaign for gender equality, and help governments do what’s right for children and particularly for girls.
We are here to ignite the creativity, talent and ideas of girls in all their diversities. We are informed by evidence, and always learning.
A better now for her. A better future for everyone.
This is what we stand for. Will you join us?