SI Advocacy Coordinator, Hannah Agius, discusses the need for community-specific responses to child marriage:
“It is estimated that 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 each year. Evidence shows that this practice puts girls at an increased risk of physical and psychological violence.
We know that cases of child marriage notably increase in areas affected by conflict and poverty. However, ending child marriage isn’t as simple as applying one single approach to all cases. The practice is an age-old tradition and its prevalence is rooted in a myriad of different yet intercepting causes. It is within the details of these causes that methods of change can be identified and successfully implemented. Approaches to tackling child marriage must be tailored to the needs of the girls within individual communities.
It is important that all those who have knowledge and expertise in this area make a conscientious effort to communicate with one another in an attempt to coordinate efforts. Communication is particularly necessary for investment, data collection, and evaluation. Organisations and community-based groups must continue to share best practices. National and regional policy must be fuelled by evidence collected from grass-roots projects, and those who have been affected by the practice should be consulted at every stage of discussions.
Local governments must have greater accountability for monitoring the rates and causes of child marriage. To enable this, civil registration systems for birth and marriage must be better maintained. Furthermore, national laws must be bought into line with international human rights standards.
It is important that girls be made aware of their rights from an early age. Where there are socially acceptable and economically viable alternatives to child marriage visible within communities, aspirations can change. However, these alternatives must be made accessible to young girls and their families, through the provision of health care services, lifelong educational opportunities, and accessible legal support.
Soroptimist International runs grassroots projects to facilitate the education and empowerment of women and girls across 121 countries, in thousands of communities. Our UN representatives work across all 7 UN centres and continue to advocate for the rights of women and girls across the globe. For Soroptimists worldwide, excitement is building for the SI Road to Equality President’s Appeal 2019-2021, which is supporting FGM and Child Marriage activists in their own countries, breaking new ground in its work with the highly influential Global Media Campaign to end FGM. Helping to change mindsets and behaviours, the Appeal is raising funds for our #SoroptimistSix, to help them in their journey to deliver powerful messages within their own communities – through the media. Find out more about the SI Road to Equality and its fight to end FGM and Child Marriage HERE.
‘Child Marriage: A form of Violence Against Children’ Girls Not Brides 2019
‘Child marriage and intimate partner violence: a comparative study of 34 countries’ Rachel Kidman, 2017
‘Theory of Change’, Girls Not Brides
‘Economic Impact of Child Marriage: Global Synthesis Brief’ The World Bank with The International Centre for Research on Women, 2017