We must stop child marriage to foster thriving communities
Learn how early, forced marriage perpetuates poverty
By Nancy Anabel, country director, India
Isn’t it an affront to human virtue when a 6-year-old girl marries a 23-year-old? Isn’t it heartrending when a child bride marries an elderly man and becomes a mother to three to four children? What about the myth in India that says you can cure sexually transmitted diseases by having intercourse with virgin girls?
The facts about child marriage
The world sees 12-million girls under the age of 18 marry every year. It’s estimated 27 percent of girls in India are married before 18. Furthermore, India’s National Family Health Survey 4 indicates seven percent of women between age 15 and 19 become mothers or conceive. Meanwhile, it’s a violation of a child’s rights for a girl to marry before 18 and for a boy to marry before 21.
Despite laws to the contrary, I’ve seen children sold into wedlock and treated as burdens to their impoverished parents.
How child marriage affects girls and the world
Child brides face mental, social and psychological stress leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, violence and poverty, which deprives them of education, health and nutrition.
What’s more, girls who give birth before the age of 15 are five times more likely to die than new moms in their twenties. The risk extends to their offspring who may not receive adequate nutrition, stimulation or care. It’s easy to see how the cycle of poverty is perpetuated:
- children aren’t involved in decisions affecting their life
- their dignity and self-worth suffers
- they learn to deny their own rights
- they eventually disregard the rights of others
How the world is fighting back
Gender equality is the United Nations’ 5th Global Goal (or Sustainable Development Goals) for change. The target focuses on “eliminating all harmful practices, such as the child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilations,” by 2030.
It’s such an important goal, as child marriages hinder the progress of eight other Global Goals:
- no poverty (1)
- zero hunger (2)
- good health and wellbeing (3)
- Inclusive and quality education (4)
- gender equality (5)
- decent work and economic growth (8)
- reducing inequality (10)
- peace, justice and strong institutions (16)
How Christian Children’s Fund of Canada is preventing child marriage
At Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, we’ve spent the past three months piloting a three-month campaign designed to shift the public’s mindset about child marriage. It united 72 civil-society organizations and seven government departments in three states in India to spread awareness about the issue to more than 1.2-million people.
The anecdotal evidence shows we helped prevent 173 child marriages during the campaign. Moreover, 141 villages and 127 schools took oaths to create child marriage-free villages. We loved seeing children becoming the champions of preventing early, forced marriages.
Our hope for a girl’s future
Children are hungry to realize their potential. Let’s work together to give them thriving spaces free from violence and discrimination, so we can stop child marriage now! If we don’t, millions of girls will continue becoming child brides.
About Christian Children’s Fund of Canada:
Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) is a child-centred international development organization and a member of ChildFund Alliance. For nearly 60 years, CCFC has worked with children, communities, donors and other partners — changing lives through improved health, education and clean water. CCFC works in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas, to support more than 700,000 children, youth and community members.