SEATTLE — Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) disproportionately affects women and girls from impoverished, under-developed countries. According to USAID, every year, 14.2 million girls under the age of 18 are married. In the developing world especially, some of those girls are as young as 8 or 9 years old.
In Africa, CEFM rates are around 40 percent and in South Asia, one in every two girls is married before the age of 18, giving the region the highest rate of CEFM in the world.
Child, Early and Forced Marriage threatens girls’ education, increases early/teen pregnancy rates, maternal and child mortality rates, sexually based and domestic violence, as well as an increased chance of contracting HIV/AIDS.
In places where these factors are most prevalent, poverty rates continue to rise due to population growth, low education rates, low economic opportunity and food/water insecurity for children and mothers, among other things. Fortunately, there is a global fight to end CEFM. Listed below are four examples of efforts fighting to end Child, Early and Forced Marriage around the globe:
4 Major Efforts to End Child, Early and Forced Marriage
- Plan International – Founded in 1937, Plan International is an organization that advocates for the rights of children and advancing equality for girls in more than 70 countries around the world. Among many other initiatives, their “18+” program advocates for an end to Child, Early and Forced Marriage. Operating on local, national and international levels, it “…enable[s]millions of girls to avoid marriage, stay in school and decide for themselves whether and when to marry.” Plan International focuses exclusively on advocacy and education to help families and governments understand the disastrous effects CEFM has on girls lives and futures. According to UNICEF, CEFM rates decreased 20 percent over the past decade, however, Plan International maintains that without CEFM advocacy, over 150 million girls will be child brides by 2030.
- Girls Not Brides – Founded in 2011, Girls Not Brides is a global organization that works to end child marriage, empower women and girls and create awareness about CEFM issues in more than 95 countries. Like Plan International, Girls Not Brides believes the minimum age for marriage should be set at 18. Girls Not Brides is an organization that works to raise awareness, facilitate learning, mobilize on political and economic levels and working with other organizations to help end CEFM. Over the next decade, focused on government, community, education, partnerships and global perspectives, Girls Not Brides hopes to advance a collective effort to end CEFM.
- Sonita Alizadeh – Alizadeh first fell in love with rap music in her early teens—around the same time her parents attempted to force her into a marriage in order to help pay for their son’s bride. After fleeing Taliban violence in her native Afghanistan, the now famous rapper learned to read and write at an NGO for refugees, where she discovered her passion for poetry and eventually, rap music. In a region where Child, Early and Forced marriage is a common practice, Alizadeh refused to be married off. In a courageous act of rebellion, Alizadeh wrote the “Brides for Sale,”—a rap song about a culture that oppresses and dehumanizes women at an early age through CEFM practices. Since the song’s release, it quickly became an anthem for women and girls who face the realities of CEFM every day. Today, Alizadeh lives in the United States where she attends school and does advocacy work with organizations like Girls Not Brides. She works with teachers and politicians, educating them on CEFM issues and even created her own curriculum to support education on the issue.
- Nice Nailantei Leng’ete – In many African countries, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a coming-of-age practice and is an indication that a girl is now a woman and is ready to be married. However, this ceremonious occasion often occurs at a young age for African girls, resulting in high CEFM rates. While some embrace FGM as an important cultural tradition, many African women view it as a misogynistic and oppressive practice. After watching her sister and many others go through this dangerous ritual, Leng’ete found a way to escape. Today, she is an advocate for girls, fighting against FGM and CEFM in her native Kenya. She teamed up with organizations like Amref Health Africa and in her seven years of activism, Leng’ete rescued over 15,000 girls from FGM and CEFM. Leng’ete’s advocacy inspired Time magazine to name her one of the most influential people of 2018.
While CEFM is a human right abuse that often lies on the social and legislative periphery in many societies, the advocacy of individuals and groups like those listed above continue to reach and provide resources to thousands of women and girls who fall victim to CEFM.
– Morgan Everman