On International Day of the Girl, World Vision is calling for urgent action to improve opportunities for 110 million girls who could be forced into child marriage by 2035.
A World Vision report released today, Fighting for a Future, highlights the devastating impact of Covid-19 on girls, with estimates an extra 10 million could be married as children due to the after-effects of the pandemic unless urgent action is taken.
The report includes an opportunity index for girls and examines opportunities in 40 low- and middle-income countries, including the 20 with the highest rates of child marriage.
It predicts that 52% of girls in countries with the lowest opportunity levels could be forced into child marriage.
World Vision New Zealand National Director, Grant Bayldon, says the report’s findings demonstrate that it is more important than ever to empower girls and continue to fight for their right to education and economic freedom.
“The scale of damage done by child marriage around the world is heart-breaking. Child marriage puts girls at greater risk of sexual abuse, domestic violence, depression, and arrested education.
“Tragically, this is the reality for one in five girls in the world – to be married as a child and to have their choices and freedom stolen. It affects millions of girls and we need to act now to ensure girls have the freedom to make choices about their own lives,” Bayldon says.
Fighting for a Future finds that countries in sub-Saharan Africa have the highest rates of child marriage and the lowest rates of opportunity for girls. This includes Chad, Mali, Niger, and the Central African Republic.
Education is key to ensuring that girls have access to more opportunities and avoid child marriage. A child that lives in a country with the lowest education opportunity is 60% more likely to be forced into child marriage.
Other steps that can help to reduce child marriage and improve opportunities for girls, include:
· Educating girls about their rights and gender inequality
· Increased investment in community-led child protection and health services
· Working to shift harmful norms and practices such as child marriage
· Inclusive economic development to address poverty, increase purchasing power and create jobs.
World Vision’s Partnership Leader for Advocacy and External Engagement, Dana Buzducea, says the world has the knowledge and resources to break the vicious cycle of child marriage.
“Every girl, no matter where she is born deserves to be protected from the violence that is child marriage so she is able to make choices, build the life she wants, and achieve her full potential. What we need is the political will to address this issue,” she says.
Bayldon says World Vision rolls out programmes around the world to empower and protect children, teach them their rights and ensure they stay in school.
“I have seen for myself how equipping children themselves to change community attitudes is so successful, but we need support to continue this work. We owe it to all girls everywhere to ensure they enjoy their childhoods free from abuse, are educated, and have equal opportunities to excel no matter where in the world they are born,” he says.
To help provide girls with education, healthcare and greater opportunities visit https://www.worldvision.org.nz/give-now/sponsor-a-child/