There are nearly 70 million child brides worldwide and if current trends continue, 142 million more will join them in the coming decade.1 Married adolescent girls are among the most vulnerable groups in society. They face numerous risks, including early pregnancy, higher maternal mortality and heightened risk of domestic violence and sexually transmitted disease. Their future potential and that of their community and nation, are cut short.
Early and forced marriage usually marks the end of a girl’s education, diminishing her long-term opportunities and sentencing her and her children to lifelong hardships. Often isolated to the domestic sphere, married girls may be able to engage in income generating activity, but will have no control over their income, no awareness of market systems, and no buffer for weathering economic shocks.
Innovative solutions are required to implement and scale initiatives to reduce early marriage and to build social and economic assets of girls who are already married. Working with girls, women and their communities (including the fathers and husbands of married girls) to mitigate against early marriage has huge potential for positive change and is critical in reducing intergenerational poverty and improving the rights of girls. Improved access to household income and economic activity for girls has been proven to delay the age of marriage, as it provides their families with additional income while equipping girls with the skills and leverage to better participate in household decisions even after they are married.
MEDA is exploring innovative economic solutions to improve family livelihoods and increase the resilience of girls, efforts which are designed to reduce the risk of early marriage. Our robust experience in engaging with the private sector can provide sustainable solutions to development problems facing vulnerable youth and women.
We welcome the Canadian government’s focus on the issue of Child, Early and Forced Marriage, including the recent announcement of funding for a multi-country project led by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). See http://www.international.gc.ca/media/aff/news-communiques/2015/07/20a.aspx?lang=eng for more details of this exciting new initiative.
1 Edmeades, J, Hayes, R and Gaynair, G. Improving the Lives of Married Adolescent Girls in Amhara, Ethiopia. New York: ICRW, 2014.