As governments and donors gather in London for tomorrow’s Girl Summit to end child marriage, international aid organisation CARE Australia is urging participants to intensify their efforts to address the roots of child marriage.
It follows a pledge by CARE to help communities in Bangladesh and Nepal to reverse the tide against child marriage. With a $7 million investment over the next three years, CARE will advocate against child marriage globally and strike at the roots of the problem in 90 villages of north-eastern Bangladesh — where 66 per cent of girls marry before they are 18 — and 16 sub districts of southern Nepal — where 41 per cent of girls also marry before the age of 18.
CARE Australia spokesperson Lyrian Fleming-Parsley said nearly 39,000 girls across the world become child brides every day.
‘That’s about one every two seconds and enough girl brides to almost fill the Sydney Cricket Ground every single day. This is a staggering number. Child marriage doesn’t just rob young girls and boys of their childhood – it undermines a nation’s health, education and progress.’
She said the world could end child marriage in a generation if those vowing to stop the practice truly tackled the underlying forces driving girls and boys into early marriage across the globe.
‘While useful, policies aimed at preventing child marriage and developing programs that educate and empower girls are critical steps, they are not enough. Real progress requires deep changes from within entire families and communities, from parents and in-laws to religious leaders and business owners,’ Ms Fleming-Parsley said.
One CARE project in Nepal delayed the marriage of 220 girls by providing them with support to go to school, while also seeking a guarantee from their parents that the girls would finish high school. The program also worked with the media, religious leaders and law enforcement to change perceptions and gain their commitment to refuse to participate in child marriage ceremonies.
CARE’s delegation at the summit is urging governments and donors to promote secondary school education for girls, access to safe reproductive health services for adolescents and economic opportunities for teenage girls.
CARE is also calling for greater efforts to empower girls who are already married and who are often invisible in society, national strategies that make governments accountable for reducing child marriage, and increased support for community-led initiatives that transform social norms underpinning the practice.