What do 46% of women in South Asia and 39% of women in sub-Saharan Africa have in common? They were all married to men before they turned 18. Child marriage remains a common practice throughout much of the developing world. In order to combat this detrimental practice, we are pleased to announce an alliance between the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Girls Not Brides in the effort to end the practice of child marriage. In 2007, Nelson Mandela formed a group called The Elders, a group of ten influential world leaders including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Jimmy Carter, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson. This group meets twice a year in order to listen, discuss, and support a variety of topics surrounding world peace and human rights. With help from UNICEF, the Elders decided to address the practice of child marriage. They wanted to create an opportunity for non-governmental organizations around the world to work together to end this practice. This led to the creation of Girls Not Brides.
More than forty organizations are a part of this global partnership to end child marriage. Together, we will work to support efforts to stop child marriage, and help children already in marriage – in the United States, that includes encouraging our own government to make prevention of child marriage a foreign policy priority. Child marriage puts children, particular girls, at risk. Girls who are married before 18 are more likely to have children of their own, which increases the likelihood of maternal death. Child marriage also prevents many girls from going to school, which limits their ability to earn a living. Children in early marriages are more likely to be isolated from their home communities and more susceptible to abuse. UNICEF, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and Girls Not Brides agree that child marriage threatens thousands of children’s lives across the globe. We are so excited to work together with The Elders on this issue and bring widespread and lasting change!