A Dark Reality: 1 in 7 Girls Worldwide Becomes A Child Bride, Marrying An Older Man

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Were you aware that 27, 397 girls under the age of 18 are married every day in different parts of the world? That’s one in seven girls globally who becomes a child bride, often marrying an older man she doesn’t know. Sadly these figures are part of a harrowing reality, particularly in poor families who often view marriage as way to secure a girl’s future, especially in communities with limited economic opportunities. The complex mix of cultural and economic factors mean there is not a single, simple solution. Child marriage is a real concern in some of the countries where Children International (CI) works; an organisation with a mission is to bring real and lasting change to children living in poverty. India, Zambia and the Dominican Republic are three of the top 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage.

It’s the plight of any 11 year old girl who is considered old enough for marriage and motherhood, if she lived in an African or Asian or Latin American country. While in other parts of the world, she’s just a little girl. It is a disturbing thought.

These young child brides are often disempowered, dependent on their husbands and deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education and safety. They are neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers and are at a greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, becoming infected with HIV/AIDS and in some cases suffer domestic violence. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death in young women aged 15 to 19.

CI is working tirelessly to help empower girls and change their futures through different programs from training thousands of staff members and volunteers every year on its child-protection procedures, who then fight abuse and exploitation, helping to prevent early marriages. The organisation also runs community centre offering safe spaces (protected by security guards!) where girls can study and hang out, reducing their exposure to potential traffickers. Plus its Sports for Development initiative levels the playing field for girls through co-ed sports, encouraging them to challenge gender norms, boosting their self-esteem.

While its Social and Financial Education project teaches youth about their rights and civic responsibilities, as well as how to manage money, conserve resources, plan a business and save for the future. Many girls have gone on to start their own businesses, making and saving enough to pay for college, instead of getting married! Job training gives these young women access to vocational classes they might be barred from otherwise. CI’s programs shows that we could end child marriage in a generation. As when a girl in the developing world gets at least seven years of education, she typically marries four years later and has two fewer children. Educated women experience less violence, are more likely to make more money and have healthier children once they decide to become mums. 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia