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Child marriage: Facts, FAQs, and how to help end it

In a full classroom, high school girls wearing white uniforms smile from their desks.

In rural Kenya, teenagers at St. Elizabeth High School for Girls have the chance to attend school instead of getting married, thanks to community-led shifts in attitudes toward girls’ value and role in society. (©2022 World Vision/photo by Chris Wanga)

Child marriage and forced marriage are violations of child protection and human rights. This widespread, harmful practice not only compromises a child’s development; it also severely limits their health, wellness, and opportunities in life. And yet, globally, at least 12 million girls per year are married before the age of 18.

The United Nations  Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality) calls for a global effort to end child marriage by 2030.

FAQs: What you need to know about child marriage

Explore facts and frequently asked questions about child marriage, and learn how you can help end it.

What is child marriage?

How is forced marriage related to child marriage, how many child brides are there in the world, why does child marriage happen today, where does child marriage happen most, how are poverty and child marriage connected, why is child marriage harmful, how does access to education for girls help reduce child marriage, how can i help end child marriage, what is world vision doing to help end child marriage, timeline for ending child marriage.

At its core, child marriage — where one or both parties are children under 18­ — violates child protection and human rights . Many factors can lead to child or forced marriage — from financial or food insecurity to cultural or social norms. Whatever the cause, it compromises a child’s development and severely limits their opportunities in life.

While child marriage is far more likely to happen to girls, in some countries, it’s not uncommon for boys to marry before the age of 18. Often, a younger girl is married to an older man.

A key characteristic of forced marriage is the absence of one or both individuals’ full, free, and informed consent to the marriage. Marriage is considered forced when children are not in a position — legally or otherwise — to offer this kind of consent.

About 650 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday. Worldwide, about 21% of girls are married in childhood. That’s 12 million girls under 18 every year — or 22 girls every minute.

The causes of child marriage are complex and varied. It’s motivated by different factors across communities and regions — sometimes even within the same country. Overwhelmingly, child brides come from the world’s most impoverished nations.

In addition to poverty, preserving family honor or providing “protection” for the family, social norms and customs, and religious beliefs can all factor in to children being forced into marriage.

Child marriage is a global problem. It cuts across ethnic, cultural, and religious lines and can be found in almost every region — from Africa to the Middle East, Asia to Europe to the Americas.

In West Africa, Niger has the highest rate  of child marriage globally — 76% of girls in Niger are married before the age of 18. Other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, like the Central African Republic and Chad, also see more than half of all girls married before their 18th birthday.

Maryam (face partially shown) sits near her father, who has a microphone clipped to his olive-green shirt. His face is not shown.

For parents with several children or families living in extreme poverty, child marriage is simply a way to help alleviate their desperate economic situation.

In communities where a girl’s family pays a dowry, marriage at a younger age can mean a lower expense. In other communities, the economic transaction is reversed, and a man will pay a bride price to the parents of a girl to marry her. In these communities, younger girls often fetch a higher price, since they presumably have more time to dedicate to their new family and bear more children.

Girls are sometimes married to help offset debts, settle conflicts, or to bring in money when families are struggling financially. Overall, child marriage creates many economic incentives for parents to marry off their young girls — whether for financial security or gain. Sadly, the practice also tends to trap girls and their children into a lifetime of economic disadvantage.

While poverty is a key cause of child marriage, it’s also an ongoing consequence. Robbed of the chance to grow, learn, and fully realize their potential, child brides are disempowered, especially in developing countries with limited economic opportunities. Without an education, women who were married as children can’t end the cycle of poverty for themselves or their family.

Child marriage has far-reaching effects on girls’ physical and mental health and lifelong opportunities. Girls who marry as children are less likely to reach their full potential. They face separation from family and friends during a critical stage of their lives. They’re expected to take on the role of a grown woman — running a household and raising a family — rather than going to school and participating in healthy social activities and age-appropriate play. A child bride usually doesn’t get to choose her own future.

Seen through the trees, two Honduran teenaged girls sit talking on a hammock.

Girls who have no education are more likely to marry before 18 than girls who attend secondary school or higher. When girls have access to education, they  develop the knowledge and confidence to make important life decisions  for themselves — including if, when, and whom to marry.

Wherever World Vision works, we make child protection a priority. We empower children with educational opportunities. We partner with their families and communities — men, women, boys, and girls — to help everyone understand a girl’s worth and potential. For programs to succeed, everyone needs to work together to help transform harmful practices.

As girls grow into women, our work in maternal, newborn, and child health plays a critical role in improving the health of mothers and babies. We educate community members on the importance of supporting women during pregnancy and motherhood and on the healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.

Child brides aren’t the only ones harmed by child marriage. Communities, countries, and entire generations suffer the lasting impacts of child marriage when girls aren’t educated and empowered. By contrast, allowing girls to stay in school has serious payoffs, including reducing poverty and inequality and growing girls’ confidence, knowledge, and skills. That’s why World Vision prioritizes gender equality  in our work to help communities achieve sustainable development, economic growth, and better prospects for their children — both boys and girls.

A girl wearing a headband with colorful ornaments hanging from it smiles.

In our work with community child protection committees, faith leaders, children and youth clubs, local governments, and women’s savings groups in many countries, World Vision prompts action to prevent child marriage and intervene on behalf of child brides.

Jasmine Owen of World Vision’s staff in Canada and Sevil Omer from World Vision U.S. contributed to this article.

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Solutions to end child marriage

Publication Subtitle: Summary of the evidence Publication Year: 2013 Publication Author: ICRW

This policy brief highlights five evidence-based strategies identified by ICRW to delay or prevent child marriage: 1) Empower girls with information, skills and support networks; 2) Provide economic support and incentives to girls and their families; 3) Educate and rally parents and community members; 4) Enhance girls’ access to a high-quality education; and 5) Encourage supportive laws and policies. In order for the next generation of development programs to make ending child marriage a priority, policymakers must pay attention to these strategies while continuing to test innovative approaches and evaluation techniques.

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Europe and Central Asia


UNICEF works to end child marriage, a rights violation that undermines the health and prospects of girls, in particular.

Two girls huddle together over a desk while one completes some schoolwork

The challenge

Child marriage – a marriage or union before the age 18 – has a disproportionate impact on girls. It curtails their education, compromises their health, exposes them to violence and traps them in poverty, undermining their prospects and potential. 

Child marriages in parts of Europe and Central Asia may reflect a hardening of gender attitudes that reinforce stereotypical roles for girls and limit their opportunities. Child marriage is often linked to patriarchal attitudes towards girls, including the need to safeguard family ‘honour’.

Girls account for the vast majority of those who marry as children.

While some boys marry before the age of 18, the vast majority of children who marry are girls, often against their will and with grave consequences.  

While rates of officially registered marriages of girls aged 15 to 19 in the region range from just over 2 per cent in Ukraine to 23 per cent in Turkey,  the true percentages may be far higher, as many child marriages are never registered.

Rates of child marriage spike among marginalized communities in particular, including Roma girls in south-eastern Europe. In parts of the Balkans, half of all Roma women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18, compared to just 10 per cent nationally.

There are also spikes in child marriage for girls in parts of the Caucasus, Central Asia and in Turkey, especially in refugee and migrant populations. Child marriage increases dramatically during humanitarian emergencies, driven by social and economic pressures as well as concerns about girls’ safety. A survey in 2014, for example, found that the average age of marriage for Syrian refugee girls in Turkey was between 13 and 20 years, with many parents saying that they would not have married off their daughters at such a young age under more normal circumstances. 

Child marriage poses a serious risk to girls.

Once married, a girl’s world narrows dramatically. Child brides experience isolation from their family, friends and communities, as well as violence , abuse and exploitation. Girls who marry early often become pregnant while they are still children themselves, with great risks for their own well-being and that of their babies. 

There are clear links between child marriage and school drop-out , with girls who are married before the age of 18 less likely to be in school than their peers, and girls who drop out of school more likely to be married.

The solution

UNICEF sees ending child marriage as essential for girls’ empowerment and well-being, and we work with partners to tackle this rights violation wherever it occurs. We do so by focusing on those girls who are most at-risk, promoting their education and mobilizing those who influence families and wider society to give girls more control over their own lives and prospects. 

We address child marriage through programming across sectors to tackle the many aspects of this harmful practice, particularly in marginalized communities.

In countries as diverse as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey, we have taken different steps to prevent child marriage, including support for hotlines and referrals to services that offer direct support to girls.

Our programmes draw on robust evidence, informed by the views of marginalized girls and boys, to empower communities and strengthen the systems that act as a safeguard against child marriage, such as education and social protection. 

Ending child marriage means tackling many challenges.

We recognize that ending child marriage involves tackling the many challenges that perpetuate this rights violation, such as gender inequality and discrimination, lack of education , and poverty. 

Our work covers five key areas: 

In southeast Turkey, for example, UNICEF is working with the Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality to identify causes and cases of child marriages and develop mechanisms to prevent them. The programme aims to reach around 50,000 children and 50,000 parents by the end of 2017. 

In Bulgaria, family centres have drawn on UNICEF-supported research on the causes of child marriage to create programmes to prevent such marriages and promote greater access to secondary schools for girls from Roma communities.   

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the ‘Empowering Roma children and families to exercise their rights’ programme implemented by a Roma organization with support from UNICEF mobilizes Roma communities, institutions and groups to advance the rights of children, with a particular focus on ending child marriages.

These resources on gender issues represent just a small selection of materials produced by UNICEF and its partners in the region. The list is regularly updated to include the latest information. 

Building more inclusive, sustainable and prosperous societies in Europe and Central Asia  (2017) - UNDG

Rapid Review on Inclusion and Gender Equality in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia  (2016) - UNICEF

Violence against Women and Girls in Eastern Europe and Central Asia  (2016) - UNITE to End Violence against Women, UN Women, UNFPA and UNICEF

Serbia: Gender aspects of life course in Serbia seen through MICS data  (2015) - UNICEF

Лицо девочки Рома

10 million additional girls at risk of child marriage due to COVID-19

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Globally, the total number of girls married in childhood is estimated at 12 million per year.

Fast Facts: 10 facts illustrating why we must #EndChildMarriage

Two girls huddle together over a desk while one completes some schoolwork

25 million child marriages prevented in last decade due to accelerated progress, according to new UNICEF estimates

There is no single solution, actor or sector to end child marriage; we must all work together. Here you will find an overview of how to end child marriage and an introduction to our Theory of Change.

About child marriage

Children and adolescent girls marry and enter informal unions – by choice or by force – for many, complex, inter-related reasons. So, to end child marriage we first need to understand the systems, norms and behaviours that drive it, and what works to end it in different contexts.

We will make faster, longer-lasting change if we listen to those affected by child marriage and work across sectors and with diverse stakeholders at all levels to end the practice.

Girls – in all their diversity – must be at the centre of solutions to end child marriage. Families and communities must be engaged in transforming the negative social norms that limit girls’ choices. By working together, we can extend gender equality in the home and in public spaces, so that girls can reach their full potential.

To make changes at scale, international bodies, governments, and political and faith leaders need to come together and commit to putting human rights standards into action all over the world. This means targeted investments and programming to end child marriage and build girls’ agency. It means ensuring girls and women have access to quality education, sexual and reproductive health care, gender-responsive social protection systems and a fair and equal labour market. Current funding is nowhere near enough to match the scale of child marriage worldwide.

This is why Girls Not Brides member organisations collaborate with a wide range of individuals, organisations and social movements to transform girls’ lives. To learn more about how we work together, or to connect with an organisation working where you are, explore Our Partnership pages.

Find out more about the drivers of child marriage, sector-specific solutions, advocacy and activism, and pathways to gender equality through our Learning & Resources pages.

Our Theory of Change

The Girls Not Brides Theory of Change shows the range and combination of approaches needed to address child marriage, and the role everyone has to play to end it.

Explore our Theory of Change

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how to solve the problem of child marriage

how to solve the problem of child marriage

5 ways to end child marriage  

how to solve the problem of child marriage

It’s every girl’s right to choose if, who and when they marry. Yet globally, nearly 41,000 girls are forced into child marriage every day. Early, forced and child marriage is a complex global issue that affects both boys and girls.  However, it disproportionately affects more girls – 82% of all children married before age 18 are girls. Child marriage robs girls of their childhood, often forcing them to drop out of school, exposing them to violence – sexual, physical and emotional – and thrusting them into experiences that their young minds and bodies are not ready for, like motherhood.  Despite being prohibited by international law, child marriage continues to be practiced in countries around the world, and often in communities struggling with extreme poverty. Ending this practice won’t be an easy feat, but change is possible if we work together. Through collaboration with youth, parents, community leaders and governments, we can change the story and end this harmful practice. Here are 5 ways Plan International is working to prevent and end child marriage in the communities where we work : 

1. Educating girls

Education plays a critical role in keeping girls safe from child marriage. In fact, the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to be married before age 18 and have children during her teenage years. In addition, education ensures girls acquire the skills and knowledge to find employment and a means to support their families. This can help break the cycle of poverty and prevent child marriages that occur as a result of extreme poverty and/or financial gain. SEE ALSO: How education protects girls from child marriage

2. Empowering girls

Every girl has the right to decide her own future, but not every girl knows this – that’s why empowering girls is so crucial to ending child marriage. When girls are confident in their abilities, armed with knowledge of their rights and supported by peer groups of other empowered girls, they are able to stand up and say “NO” to injustices like child marriage. Empowered girls are able to re-shape perspectives and challenge conventional norms of what it means to be a girl. 

3. Rallying the wider community to stand up for girls’ rights

Parents and community leaders are often responsible for deciding when and whom a girl marries. In many traditional communities, it’s believed that marriage keeps girls safe, protected and economically provided for by their husbands. However, the opposite is true – marriage endangers girls’ physical and mental health. In fact, girls who are married before 18 are more likely to experience domestic abuse and to report that their first sexual experience was forced. Furthermore, child brides are more at risk of HIV infection and more likely to experience deadly complications during pregnancy and childbirth . When parents and community leaders are educated about the many negative consequences of child marriage, it can inspire them to change their views, speak up for girls’ rights and encourage others to do the same.

how to solve the problem of child marriage

4. Providing girls and their families with income opportunities

Providing families with livelihood opportunities like microfinance loans is an effective way to prevent child marriages that occur as a result of financial need. When families have increased economic opportunities, they’re less likely to perceive their daughters as economic burdens. This is especially true if a girl is in school gaining valuable skills that will help generate income in the future.

5. Petitioning government and encouraging supportive laws

In countries where child marriage is prevalent, petitioning government to increase the minimum age for marriage to 18 years is a critical first step for positive change. Once the minimum age is increased, it’s imperative to continue raising awareness of these laws among government officials and community leaders to ensure the laws are being enforced. Other legal policies, such as registering birth certificates and marriages, are powerful tools for preventing child marriage. 

Time is running out for girls at risk

In the time it took to read this story, 80 girls were forced into child marriage. With each passing moment, progress that has been made for girls’ rights to say NO to child marriage is being undone due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. We are now faced with the reality that more girls will become child brides as a direct result of the pandemic. We must stop the clock and stop the setback so that girls can decide their own futures. Learn more about how COVID-19 has setback progress for girls

how to solve the problem of child marriage

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When young girls enter child marriages and are forced to marry before the age of 18, all aspects of their lives are affected, from their health to their education. 

Child brides who stop attending school are more likely to experience early pregnancy, malnourishment, domestic violence , and pregnancy complications . It is also more difficult for girls who enter child marriages to escape poverty.

While child marriage previously decreased worldwide, this form of gender-based violence has recently increased due to COVID-19, and the pandemic is expected to reverse 25 years of progress made to stop it. As families face economic hardship, they are increasingly turning to child marriage to alleviate themselves of one more mouth to feed. An estimated 10 million additional girls are at risk .

Here’s a list of five steps we can take to prevent child marriage within our lifetime to continue to promote gender equality.

1. Challenge gender norms that perpetuate the idea that girls are inferior to boys.

Ending child marriage starts with understanding the traditions and patriarchal systems that perpetuate societies where girls are denied human rights because of their sex. Many girls grow up believing that their virginity or reproductive status is their only asset. 

Child marriage is one of the many gendered social norms that serve to control women and girls’ sexuality and is often tied to other harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation (FGM). To end it will take a collective effort that begins within households and extends throughout communities to shift away from the belief that girls don’t deserve the same choices as boys. Educational information on the impact of child marriage can empower families and community leaders to stand up against the discriminatory act. 

2. Ensure all girls have access to quality education.

Research shows that keeping girls in school is one of the most effective ways to prevent child marriage. A girl’s chance of marrying before adulthood is six percentage points less for every year she stays in secondary school. And girls without education are three times as likely to marry before 18 as those who have completed secondary or higher education, according to the organization Girls Not Brides. What’s more, when girls are in school, their families are less likely to view them as ready for marriage. 

The benefits of keeping girls in school are generational. If a girl doesn’t drop out of school, it is more likely that her daughter will also stay in school and help break the child marriage cycle. With a quality education, girls can gain the independence and skills to support themselves without having to rely solely on a partner. 

3. Improve access to sexual and reproductive health. 

If a young woman enters a marriage against her will, it is likely that she also lacks the right to make other choices about her body, such as when and if to have children or to use contraceptives. Child marriage is the main driver of early pregnancy, which has long-term impacts on a girl’s health and well-being. In some cases, child marriages occur as a result of early pregnancies. 

Access to sexual and reproductive health in combination with quality education is linked to higher marriage ages. Without accurate information and knowledge on sexual and reproductive health, adolescent girls lack the resources to make the best decisions for themselves within their marriages. 

4. Provide support for the development of adolescent girls.

When girls have the space to learn skills to enrich their lives and be in a community with others, they gain the confidence and knowledge to advocate for themselves. Decreasing isolation and creating opportunities to network with others equips girls with the tools they need to navigate life-altering choices such as marriage and childbearing. Groups and programs that promote girls’ development need increased funding and targeted investments to continue. It is also crucial to strengthen services for girls who are at risk of or have entered child marriages to ensure that they know where to get help if they need it. 

5. Support legal systems to protect young girls’ rights.

Governments can’t show their dedication to ending child marriage without firm laws and policies that restrict and prohibit the practice and are up to international human rights standards. Policies to increase educational, economic, and social opportunities for married and unmarried girls are also necessary.

Legislation to prevent child marriage must include minimum age requirements for marriage, assistance for girls who want to leave a marriage, and the removal of parental consent or traditional laws that allow loopholes for the practice. The minimal legal marriage age is often higher for men than for women. A measure as simple as increasing birth and marriage registrations can prevent child marriage by proving a girls’ age and guaranteeing that a woman will be able to seek financial and legal support if the marriage is terminated. Systems to ensure that child marriage laws and policies are enforced are crucial to their success.

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Solutions to End Child Marriage

This document highlights five evidence-based strategies identified by ICRW to delay or prevent child marriage:

Last modified: March 25, 2019

Language: English

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how to solve the problem of child marriage

16 Ways of Preventing and Intervening in Child Marriages

M For Marriage

These large age gaps reinforce power differentials between girls and their husbands. Girls who marry before age 18 are more likely to experience violence within marriage than girls who marry later. Girls may lack the power to negotiate safer sex and have little access to information or services to prevent either pregnancy or infection. According to Girls Not Brides , girls under the age of 15 are 5 times more likely than women in their twenties to die during childbirth . Married girls are also more likely to have multiple children in shorter intervals and more likely to become disabled due to pregnancy or childbirth. Stillbirths and deaths during the first week of life are 50 percent higher among babies born to adolescent mothers than among babies born to mothers in their twenties. Children of adolescent mothers are also more likely to be premature and have low birth weight.

Governments are now recognising the importance of addressing child marriage and integrating societal changes to meet the UN Millennium Development goals. Supporting girls in avoiding child marriage, delaying having children, and finishing school brings opportunities for skills and income to eradicate poverty for future generations. Promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women ensures girls get choices as to when they marry and whom. Reducing child/forced marriage will reduce child mortality and disability related to child/teen pregnancy or childbirth. It will also improve maternal health which will reduce vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Though the practice of child marriage is rooted in tradition and culture, neither culture nor tradition is immutable and there is hope for change. This list presents 16 ways you can join in the efforts to end the practice of child marriage and influence change to ensure a better future for young girls and boys around the world.

Written and compiled by Angelique Mulholland with additional content by Regina Yau; Introduction by Carol Olson 

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #1: Educate Girls 

According to UNICEF , one in three girls in low- to middle-income countries will marry before the age of 18.  Many studies have shown that it is more than likely that a girl who marries as a child will come from a community where education for girls is not valued. She will more than likely be illiterate and will have little to no understanding of her human rights. Girls having access to both primary and secondary education will improve their chances of access to employment and a means of supporting themselves and then in turn their families. It is important to reach out to communities and help challenge traditional and discriminatory views on access to education. INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE:  Tostan, a women’s human rights charity based in Senegal, runs outreach programmes which educate community elders and decision makers about the importance of educating young women.


Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #2:  Empower Girls

In many countries where child marriage is prevalent, girls are often seen as economic burdens. Girls in households where boys are favoured often have low self-esteem and little confidence. Dr Ashok Dyalchand, who works at the Institute of Health Management, Pachod (IHMP) in India, has conducted a research project on teenage girls living in rural areas of India . Using the Rosenberg scale, he measured the self-esteem of young girls and found that the lower the self-esteem, the higher the risk of child marriage. Dr. Dyalchan found that empowerment programmes for young girls are key to preventing child or early marriage by improving both their sense of self and self-efficacy through informing girls of their basic human rights, their legal right to refuse a marriage, and education programmes on health and sex education. Small scale studies have shown promising results from his programmes that make girl empowerment its central strategy –  the mean age of marriage of 14.5 years old has risen to 17 years old.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #3: Educate  Parents 

Some parents from traditional communities believe that child marriage is a way of protecting their daughter: providing for her economically so she will be taken care of; safeguarding her from harassment and sexual violence before she reaches puberty, and preventing premarital sex which is still taboo in many countries across the world. Unfortunately, families often do not know the negative and harmful effects of early child marriage, including pregnancy at such a young age which can lead to many complications as a girl’s body will not be ready for childbirth. Such parents will benefit from being educated on the very serious harmful effects of forced early childhood marriage. INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE:  In Zambia, Chief Nzamane of the Mfumbeni tribe works with THE parents of girls who are at risk of being sold for lucrative dowries . He understands the financial pressures on families and finds way to help them stay financially secure without needing to force their daughters, in his words, into “lifelong trauma.”

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #4:  Mobilise religious leaders and community elders

Religious elders and community leaders – nearly always men – are the decision makers in communities where early or child marriage is prevalent. Engaging and educating these powerful men is key to changing the attitude of a community on childhood marriage. INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE:  Tostan’s Community Empowerment Programme focuses on engaging local elders and religious leaders and educating them on the harmful effects of traditions such as child marriage on communities as a whole. Once they are knowledgeable, Tostan will hold educational sessions with the whole village including the parents of high-risk girls and the girls themselves. As a result of these sessions, throughout Senegal villages have declared an end to some harmful practices including child marriage.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #5:  Support Adolescent Girls Who Are Already Married

Although the focus is on communities preventing child marriage, young girls who have already married also need support. As well as being isolated and having less chance to complete or continue their education, child marriage can put young girls at a higher risk of violence in the home- sexually, physically and psychologically. INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE: CARE has run a successful project in Ethiopia which has focused on supporting child brides. The TESFA project (meaning “Hope” in Amharic) focuses on educating child brides of their rights and providing them education on their reproductive rights, contraception and healthcare. The holistic approach giving all members of the community a chance to discuss the benefits of supporting child brides and the best ways in which to do it, has resulted in some very encouraging results over a three-year period.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #6:   Support Legislation Against Child Marriage


One of the most powerful tools that anti-child marriage organisations and women’s rights activists and advocates have been campaigning for is for governments in countries such as Yemen where child marriage is prevalent to make child marriage illegal by raising the legal age of marriage to the minimum age of 18.  If you live in one of these countries or communities, start supporting efforts to get such legislation passed by supporting the efforts of these organisations and activists including participating in community campaigning activities organised by them such as petitions and demonstrations. Where there are such legislations and laws in force but have trouble gaining traction over entrenched traditions, help prevent child marriage by notifying the relevant authorities or agencies about any child marriage may be taking place in your neighbourhood or community. Ditto if you live in countries with large immigrant communities that practise child marriage.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #7:  Advocate for Women as Community Leaders

In many communities that practise child marriage, women are often kept out of the decision-making processes and are not allowed a voice in local politics. It is vital that women are able to voice their concerns and advocate for women’s rights in all spheres as this is often what accelerates the elimination of harmful traditions such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE: Tostan trains women in leadership skills and advocacy. 80% of their Community Management Committees are coordinated by women and this gives them the vital skills and confidence needed to engage in local community meetings. As a result more and more women throughout Senegal and other areas where Tostan works are being seen, heard, and having a positive impact throughout local communities.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #8:  Provide Relevant Economic Support 

Inter-generational poverty is often the most prevalent reason cited for forcing girls into early marriage. Families may know about the harmful effects of child marriage, but may be forced to marry off their daughters as the dowry payment from the marriage of an older sister might be essential in ensure the survival of younger children. Providing economic support to families may be a way of helping parents who do not want to their daughters to get married early. INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE:  The Berwan Hewane project in Ethiopia  found that providing a family with a goat or a sheep for refusing to marry off an underaged daughter helped parents stand firm on that decision. In certain cultures and communities, this provision of livestock can mean the difference in the survival and longevity of a family; providing this much-needed resource to a family trapped by poverty gives them more options, including refusing to marry off underaged daughters.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #9:  Get Informed and Take Action

If this is the first time you have become aware about child marriage, one of the first steps you need take is to understand the issue do more research and learn about the human cost of this harmful practice as there are painful consequences of child marriage. Get informed and knowledgeable on the subject, then proceed with learning more about international, governmental, and grassroots efforts in your community and worldwide that are focused on the prevention and intervention in child marriage. Then, armed with that information and knowledge, decide how you can best support their efforts with your resources and skills, then reach out to the relevant activists and organisations and start taking action.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #10:  Talk about it

As with the wider human rights issue of Violence Against Women, child marriage is still a taboo subject; talking about it will help to educate societies across the globe about the harmful effects of child marriage. Many people, particularly in Western countries, are hesitant to criticise cultural practices as they are worried they will be perceived as racist or xenophobic. Standing up for the human rights of children should never be perceived as a negative act. Talk about it with your family and friends, share information on your social media forums and be passionate about ending child marriage today.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #11: Men and Boys – Please Speak Out!

Like in every area of ending violence against women, men and boys are central to challenging gender norms and changing deeply entrenched traditional practices like child marriage. There would be no child marriage if men in affected communities did not choose to marry children. It is therefore vital that men are educated on the rights of girls and how early marriage can be harmful to her health and happiness and destructive to the family unit. We need men everywhere to speak out against discrimination and violence towards women and girls. INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE: In Morocco, a Maths teacher named Mohammed Baddi runs educational projects with Fondation YTTO , a Moroccan women’s rights organisation in the Amazir communities based in the Atlas mountains. He teaches young girls that; they can achieve more than the wife/mother status society affords them: “They are not machines, just meant to sew or to bear children.”

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #12: Take A Pledge

On 22 July 2014 something extraordinary happened: In a school in South London, UK, David Cameron, Malala Yousafzai, and hundreds of development professionals and representatives around the world pledged to end Early, Child or Forced Marriage (ECFM) and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as part of The Girl Summit. 700 million other people did so too. The Girl Summit, co-hosted by UNICEF , is the first initiative of its kind that aims to accelerate and mobilise efforts to end FGM and ECFM within a generation. You can make your pledge here and add your voice to the chorus of millions by Facebook or Twitter. Do it today!

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #13:   Sponsor a Girl Child

Sponsoring a child in a developing country has been a longstanding way for donors around the world to support underprivileged and vulnerabble communities in order to break the cycle of  violence, poverty, and illiteracy. Donating a small amount of money each month to a child with charities like Plan International  can help girls who are vulnerable to child marriage. Education is one of the greatest preventatives of child marriage and studies have proven that the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to marry or become an underaged mother. In some developing countries education is not free and families cannot afford to send their child to school and if they do, male children are given priority. By sponsoring a girl child each month you can help pay for their school fees and help her get the education she needs to avoid child marriage and to map her own path in life.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #14:  Support Anti-Child Marriage charities and organisations 

There are many amazing charities which are implementing some incredible campaigns to put an end to child marriage with encouraging results. Why not support them? Grassroots projects often desperately need support to keep going and your time or money can truly make a difference. To start you off, here are three major grassroots organisations working tirelessly every day to put an end to child marriage:  Girls Not Brides ,  Saarthi Trust  and  Tostan . If you would like to find out more about other charities working to end child marriage, our 2013  16 for 16 article  that lists out 16 prominent anti-child marriage nonprofits and charities is a good starting point.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #15:   Support Obstetric Fistula campaigns and organisations

Fistula is a common problem for adolescent girls giving birth for the first time. A fistula can occur during an obstructed labour, often when access to emergency care is unavailable or limited. Obstructed labour is an agonising process and girls/women often struggle in pain until the baby dies in the birthing canal. There is often a loss of circulation that causes tissue to die, leaving large gaps between the birth canal and bladder or rectum, causing incontinence. This is not only painful for new mothers, but it can also cause social isolation and acute psychological distress. According to Freedom from Fistula Foundation , an estimated 2 million women in Africa suffer silently with an obstetric fistula. Supporting this charity and others doing similar work in the field is a natural first step in helping many victims of child marriage from the maternal healthcare approach.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #16:  Support Artists, Photographers, and Journalists who Raise Awareness About Child Marriage

Raising awareness about the issue is vital because child marriage has been hidden away for centuries and needs to be publicly addressed by the community in order to end the daily suffering of adolescent girls and the continual violation of their human rights. One way of doing so is to support and share the work of journalists, artists, photographers and activists to help raise the plight of child brides.  INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE:   Stephanie Sinclair is a photographer who started capturing images of child brides over 9 years ago.  Stephanie sought to highlight the lives of girls forced into marriage in her photographs in a bid to raise awareness. Her work has now been internationally recognised and has been used as a conversation-starter about child brides.


Nujood Ali, former Yemeni child bride, after her divorce. Photo Credit: Stephanie Sinclair

5 thoughts on “ 16 Ways of Preventing and Intervening in Child Marriages ”

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great article about preventing child marriage. As I am also a victim of this terror it helped me..

Ask your representatives:

What are their views on Sharia Law?

What do they think about the following statements:

The West Will Tolerate Itself To Death.

Why Do We Tolerate Violence Against Women?

What are their plans to halt violence against women around world including:

1) Female genital mutilation 2) Punishing rape victims 3) Honor killing 4) Strapping bombs to children 5) Sexually enslaving women 6) Murdering homosexuals 7) Child marriage 8) Domestic Violence 9) Disciplining or Punishing Wives

Guide me steps to be taken to stop child marriage. Whom should I contact ?

I honestly can’t belive men who can be up to 60 yrs. old and agree to marry young girls like that! It’s disgusting!!!!!!!!!

Mamta, age 10, wearing a simple red and blue dress and a serious expression, stands outside her family home in Nepal, worrying about child marriage.

Child Marriage: The Devastating End of Childhood

The devastation of child marriage effectively ends a girl’s childhood. How? Forced marriage robs a girl of her education and more, replacing lessons learned in the classroom with adult responsibilities, including forced pregnancy, well before she’s ready. This not only violates her rights, but risks her life, the lives of her children and the future of her community.

Tragically, about 40 million girls worldwide are currently married or in a union – and without our help, an estimated 150 million girls will be married in the next decade. This is unacceptable.

Read more about the issues, Save the Children’s impact – and how you can help end child marriage.

What is child marriage?

Asha a 19 year old girl looking away and smiling

Asha, 19, found out that her family were making arrangements for her wedding when she was 15. The union had been agreed when she was 3 years old. She enlisted the Children’s Group and Child Protection Committee to lobby her father who eventually gave in and stopped the marriage. She has since helped other girls stop their marriages and has continued her education.

Child marriage is formal or informal union before age 18. It is a violation of children’s human rights  and a form of gender-based violence that robs children of childhood. Child marriage also  disrupts their education and drives vulnerability to violence, discrimination and abuse.

Yet these are some of today’s tragic child marriage statistics:

What are the effects of child marriage?

A 17-year old girl sits alone in her home in India.

Rizwana inside the the temporary shelters that she calls home. Rizwana had several difficult years but was assisted through them by Save the Children to better educate her family and avoid attempts of child marriage and child labor and eventually continue with her education.

Early marriage has devastating consequences for a girl’s life. Effectively, child marriage ends her childhood. Girls are forced into adulthood before they is physically and mentally ready. Child brides are frequently deprived of their rights to health, education, safety and participation. What’s more, an arranged marriage often means a girl is forced to wed an, at times significantly, older man.

Girls married young are far less likely to stay in school, with lifelong economic impacts. They are often isolated, with their freedom curtailed. They are at higher risk of physical and sexual violence. Child brides are also at greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, contracting HIV/AIDS and suffering domestic violence.

What are the effects of forced pregnancy?

Mom and baby from Somalia holding hands

“At the age of thirteen I was forced to marry a man who was much older than me," says 15-year old Aisha, seen here with her two-year old daughter. "I lived with him for awhile but we couldn’t get along because he was so much older than me.

Every year, around 17 million girls give birth. Forced pregnancy and childbearing at a young age, often a result of child marraige, when a girl’s body is not physically mature enough to deliver without complications, can also lead to devastating consequences.

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth represent the number one killer of girls ages 15-19 worldwide. And babies born to adolescent mothers face a substantially higher risk of dying, with a higher likelihood of low birth weight, malnutrition and underdevelopment. Young mothers are far less likely to be in school, and therefore more likely to struggle economically.

Where around the world does child marriage happen?

Young girl sewing a pink and gold mat

Amina* was 15 when child marriage threatened to ruin her life. Her father lost his income during COVID-19 lockdown and the family struggled to survive. Amina’s father received a marriage proposal for her and he agreed as the money the family would receive would help solve their financial problems. However, Amina’s mother was furious and went to Save the Children for help. Together they persuaded Amina’s father to reject the marriage offer and to continue her education.

Child marriage is a global problem and is compounded by poverty.  Child marriage is a problem that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. Child brides can be found in every region in the world. Major factors that place a girl at risk of marriage include poverty, especially in rural areas, as well as weak laws and enforcement, the perception that marriage will provide “protection,” customs or religious laws, and unequal gender norms.

In Africa, an estimated 12 million girls are still married each year . Despite worldwide progress in reducing child marriage and pregnancy, these are the countries with the highest child marriage rates:  Niger , Central African Republic,  Mali ,  Mozambique , and  South Sudan .

Why do child marriage rates rise during conflict?

Kadidia, 14 at school in her homeland of Mali

Kadidia*, 14, and her parents were determined that the violence sweeping Africa’s Sahel region – including her homeland Mali – wasn’t going to end her chances of completing her education.

Conflict increases the inequalities that make girls vulnerable to child marriage – and its consequences. Families may arrange marriages for girls, believing marriage will protect their daughters from violence by strangers or armed groups, as well as to ease financial burdens on the family.

For example, child marriage rates have risen in war-ravaged Yemen , one of the few countries in the world without a legal minimum age for marriage. Now more than two-thirds of Yemen’s girls are married before age 18, compared to half before the conflict escalated.

Child marriage is also a growing concern among refugee children, including those from Myanmar and the Central African Republic.

How is Save the Children is a world leader in ending child marriage?

Rizwana from India, a Save the Children Youth Champion

Rizwana’s leadership skills led her to being selected as a Save the Children Youth Champion, and through the additional support she has received through the Youth Champion program, she has continued to advocate for children’s education, the end of child marriage, and financial independence for vulnerable children and youth.

Thanks to compassionate supporters like you, Save the Children has championed equal rights for every child for over 100 years. We helped reduce child marriage worldwide by nearly one-third since 1990 – that’s tens of millions more girls empowered to stay in school or transition to work, and make marriage and motherhood decisions for themselves.

Save the Children puts gender equality at the heart of all we do. Every day, right from the start, we work to empower girls to stay in school, delay marriage and acquire the life and livelihood skills needed to successfully transition to adulthood. We work with girls and boys, families, communities and countries to change harmful gender norms and laws. Plus we empower girls to speak up, lead and succeed. We are the leading advocate for U.S. investment in girls’ leadership around the world.

In addition, Save the Children is proud to be the first nonprofit to be Gender Fair-certified for our commitment to advancing gender equality and empowering the world’s girls.

When you support Save the Children – whether it’s by donating, advocating or participating in an event challenge – you’re helping bridge the gap between the challenges girls face, like child marriage, and the futures they deserve. You’re helping ensure all children have equal opportunities to grow up healthy, educated and safe.  

Together, we can change children’s lives – ultimately, transforming the future we all share.

**Sources: Unless otherwise noted, facts and statistics have been sourced from Save the Children’s program and monitoring and evaluation experts, as well as published reports , including our gender equality reports . 

Learn More About the Challenges Girls Face Around the World

“When a girl child is given a chance, she can do what a boy child can do,” says 14-year-old Harriet. In a refugee settlement in Uganda this confident, smiling student is showing just what girls are capable of.When Harriet’s family were forced to flee South Sudan, she was afraid she would never get back to school. But then she joined our Accelerated Learning Programme for child refugees – and her learning took off.Now, Harriet’s caught up on the education she missed, and is doing brilliantly at school. She’s even been chosen as Head Girl by the other pupils. This top student is determined to become a lawyer, and make life better for people in South Sudan. “I’m going to change the world!” she says.Harriet’s working hard to create opportunities for other girls, too. By writing songs and plays about gender equality, she’s changing perceptions of what girls can do. She sings: “Our girls are driving, our girls get salaries. Society benefits, our nation benefits.’ It’s clear Harriet’s building a bright future, and not just for herself.

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Save the Children advocates for girls and women around the world. Together, we celebrate women’s achievements and press for progress on gender equity.

In Afghanistan, a female teachers stands in front of a room filled with girls and boys.

A teacher in Afghanistan shares what the ban on female aid workers means for woman and girls

Without our female staff, organizations like Save the Children cannot safely and effectively operate in Afghanistan. That’s because women and girls in our communities can only inte...

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Published on Youth Transforming Africa

Solutions to end child marriage in my country, chad, louange madjiyam, this page in:.

Louange Madjiyam, Blog4Dev Chad winner

Chad has abundant human resources for its development, as its population is largely very young.  Women outnumber men in Chad. However, it must be acknowledged that they face major problems, in particular child marriage.

Despite the efforts of the authorities to end child marriage, this practice is significantly impacting victims and is reaching alarming proportions. In reality, it is not enough for laws to be enacted and international conventions signed. Attitudes must also change. As the influence exerted by traditions and extremist religious principles account for this situation, consideration must be given to realistic and more tailored solutions in order to end this practice. 

The first step is to ramp up poverty reduction strategies. Some poor families marry off their daughters, often at too young an age, because they prefer to have rich sons-in-law to provide them with assistance and a way out of poverty. 

The next step is to lift the burden imposed by traditions, as most ethnic groups in Chad are heavily influenced by their customs, according to which a woman is first and foremost a mother and wife and is under the control of her husband. For this reason, she passes from her father’s to her husband’s control. These customs rarely protect the interests of girls.

The government also has its role to play by strengthening its policies to promote girls, adopting a less passive approach to the application of conventions related to the rights of girls and, better still, further integrating women into public and political life so that their voices can be heard.

Combating sexism or promoting gender equality must begin at home and at school.  Although we are in the twenty-first century, the pictures in textbooks remain overly stereotypical—they generally portray girls going to the market and boys going to the office. It is time to stop limiting the role of women to the home. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that young girls are aware of their rights, as most of these girls who are forced into marriage are unaware of the fact that the law allows them to voice their dissent to such marriages. 

To succeed at this effort, special emphasis must be placed on raising awareness by inviting parents with changed views, victims, religious leaders, and traditional chiefs to speak out on the issue. Several channels of communication can be used to raise awareness—the print media, radio, television, posters, movies, and social media can disseminate messages in the official and most widely spoken local languages.

The only way to end child marriage once and for all is to raise general awareness of this issue and work toward according greater importance to girls by giving them the tools to lead successful lives.

Blog Author

Blog4Dev winner Chad

Just like the author clarified, to succeed at this effort, special emphasis must be placed on raising awareness by inviting parents with changed views, victims, religious leaders, and traditional chiefs to speak out on the issue. Several channels of communication can be used to raise awareness—the print media, radio, television, posters, movies, and social media can disseminate messages in the official and most widely spoken local languages. This will help in combating the rise of this creation of the gaps that had been created previously.


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