Approximately 14 million girls under the age of 18 are married each year. According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), if present trends continue, 142 million girls will be married over the next decade. These facts and statistics are staggering. In a recent post, I highlighted the gross injustice and harmful effects that girls suffer as a result of this traditional practice.
Comprehending the issue of child marriage is overwhelming. The good news is:
The world is waking up to this injustice.
News stories, articles, television interviews and social media feeds have been flooded with one outcry:
Stop Child Marriage.
A recent change in Nigeria’s constitution, concerning the minimum age of marriage, has spurred on weeks of protests and controversy across the country. The Nigerian Feminist Forum responded immediately with a press release to explain the situation. On July 16, Nigerian Senators met to review a portion of the Constitution. An initial vote was cast to delete a portion of the Constitution which stated “any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.” Senator Ahmed Yerima challenged the deletion and voted to keep the controversial clause.
It is important to note that the clause in the Constitution does not legalize child marriage. However, many activists are concerned that the clause legitimizes the traditional practice. According to the Population Council, 73% of girls in Nigeria are married before the age of 18.
In response to the Nigerian Senate’s decision, social media activists have launched the #ChildNotBride campaign and have captured the attention of millions. Activists, women and children are making a declaration, protesting online through social media as well as in the streets of Nigeria. Since the change in Nigeria’s Constitution, a petition to the United Nations in opposition of child marriage in Nigeria has spread rapidly.
In the United States, advocacy groups are calling for stronger relationships with governments and the private sector to better prevent child marriage and its consequences.
Nada al-Ahdal, an 11 year old Yemeni girl, has brought the issue of child marriage to the media forefront. In Yemen, 47% of girls are married before the age of 18. Nada’s recent Youtube video went viral, receiving 7 million views on Youtube over three days.
Nada argues against child marriage, insisting that she would rather die than be a child bride. The video is a public declaration in which Nada directly opposes her family’s wishes to marry her to an older man.
Fox News recently interviewed Ann Warner, Senior Gender Advisor for the ICRW. The world must overcome several challenges to end child marriage. As highlighted in the video interview, poverty and gender inequality are significant factors that lead to child marriage. Many families believe that they are protecting their daughters through early marriage.
The question still remains:
What will it take to end child marriage?
Global awareness is a good start. Now more than ever before, global citizens are becoming aware and taking action to prevent child marriage. On Tuesday, Girls Not Brides released a technical briefing on child marriage. This report highlights the necessary steps that must be addressed in order to bring an end to child marriage.
At Girls’ Globe, we believe promoting, enhancing, and expanding universal access to education and empowering youth advocates are essential components in the fight to prevent child marriage. We’ve done our part. Now it’s your turn. Spread the word about the consequences of child marriage and sign the petition to show your support.
Cover image courtesy of Change.org