News and Stories - - 17 June 2021

Harnessing the power of digital tools to end child marriage

Harnessing the power of digital tools to end child marriage

Governments around the world have committed to eliminating child marriage by 2030, as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and according to our latest research in the Asia-Pacific region, digital tech could play a critical role in making this a reality.

Time to act: Let’s Go Digital: Ending Child, Early and Forced Marriage through Digital Technology analyses how more than 40 existing digital technologies and apps have the potential to prevent and end child marriage.

Everyday life has been forced to shift online during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result, child, early and forced marriage customs have begun to operate in an increasingly digital world. Each year, 12 million girls are being married off before the age of 18, and the pandemic has only made things worse, with an additional 13 million girls potentially being put at risk of child, early or forced marriage.

Although the online space poses risks, it may also be the key to tackling child marriage.

Different online platforms and mobile applications have been used to raise awareness of imminent risks and threats during the pandemic and they are becoming one of the main channels for reporting suspected cases of early and forced marriage to law enforcement agencies and strengthening referral pathways.

A major focus of Plan International’s work on ending child, early and forced marriage involves engaging with girls and young women, developing and strengthening their skills so that they are empowered to make decisions about their own lives and futures.

In the report, we hear from girls in the Asia-Pacific region who reinforce the importance and immediacy of digital solutions to tackle child marriage issues arising online.

In my village, many boys and girls made friends online and fell in love virtually. Then they met each other outside, got pregnant, and then dropped out of school at age 14 or 15. It’s become very common now. I think we should do something to prevent this issue, such as promotion messages on child marriage elimination on social media platforms.
  • Huong*, 21, member of Plan International Vietnam’s Youth Advisory Committee

The research found that digital technologies had the following benefits in fighting child marriage:

  • Anonymity, which is especially important for accessing information about taboo subjects such as sexual and reproductive health.
  • Creating networks with the ability to interact and share information instantly.
  • Access to information and the creation of communities without the requirement of physically being in the same space.
  • Safe online spaces can be a lifeline for survivors of gender-based violence, oppressed and threatened minorities and can be indispensable in times of emergencies and disasters.
  • Girls, young women and youth can access safe and confidential guidance on sexual reproductive health and rights as well as access support services.
  • Online content can provide information and resources on how young people can reduce their exposure to child marriage and reduce their risks.
We strongly believe that digital solutions can improve educational outcomes, empower youth economically, protect young people from violence and improve sexual and reproductive health. All of these things will help us achieve our goal of eliminating child marriage by 2030.
  • Bhagyashri Dengle, Plan International Asia-Pacific Hub Regional Director

Based on an in-depth literature review and interviews with Plan International staff, youth and other INGOs, the report provides vital recommendations for using online solutions to eradicate child, early and forced marriage.

Plan International is calling for development actors, technology organisations, donors and governments to ensure a gender lens is applied to every step of the process of designing and applying new technologies and online solutions.

And we’re calling for strengthened partnerships between development actors, private sector players and technological giants, to create new technologies and sustainable strategies to further accelerate efforts in ending child marriage.

The time to act is now: it is time to respond to this ancient harmful practice by reaching for modern means, including state-of-the-art digital technologies and online solutions.

 Read the full report.

You can help us to create choices which prevent girls from experiencing the lasting trauma of child marriage.

Donate here to help end child marriage.

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