Empowering girls to change their future
On the international day of the girl child, Terre des hommes (Tdh) wants to raise awareness about the issue of child marriage and explain some of its controversies.
Child marriage is a marriage or union in which one or both parties are under 18. Worldwide, over 650 million women and young girls have been married when they were still children. The countries where early marriage is most frequent are amongst the poorest on the globe. Tradition and insecurity also encourage this practice. According to UNICEF, child marriage is declining at a global level. It is, however, rising in conflict or post-conflict areas, especially in the context of displaced populations. By empowering communities to push for gender equality and to prevent early marriage, we work towards the Sustainable Development Goal 5.3 of the 2030 Agenda.
Child rights are being violated!
Child marriage affects the right to life, development, participation and protection against abuse. Pregnancy before adulthood increases the risk of birth complications, the main cause of death in adolescents. Married girls give up schooling to take on domestic responsibilities. Furthermore, patriarchal family relationships prevent the young wives from taking part in decisions that affect them or from defending their own interests, making them vulnerable to abuse. This situation affects the wellbeing of their own children as well, as they are not ready to become mothers and are not mature enough to raise their children.
Mali – Supporting migrating girls
In Mali, more than one girl in two is married before she is 18. Together with our local partners in Timbuktu we welcome and listen to underage migrant girls locally and in the counselling centres for migrant children, enabling us to identify cases of early marriage. Our teams give assistance to girls at risk or already married, by strengthening their resiliency through mediation sessions with their parents, sessions of information and family counselling, as well as follow-up support for the victims.
Jordan – How girls play a crucial role
In Jordan, 32% of the marriages in the refugee communities involve girls under 18. Thanks to setting up youth committees, our project makes it possible for young girls to engage themselves in preventing early marriages and in acquiring the skills needed to protect themselves against gender-based violence. When they know their rights, enabling them to be informed and giving them an opportunity, as we do in our protected spaces in the Emirati-Jordanian camp, girls can play an important role in putting an end to child marriage.
Bangladesh – Providing married girls with opportunities
In one of the countries with the highest rate of child marriage in the world, we help young married girls to realize their potential by offering them a means of support. We also help them to claim their rights by working with the families towards their better access to education and a reduction of gender-based violence. We advise young couples on questions of family planning. In order to change attitudes, our local teams tackle the sensitive subject of health and sexual and reproductive rights in a manner that respects the local culture.
Photo credit: © Tdh/François Struzik