Every year, more than 14 million girls are married before their 18th birthday. Instead of playing and learning, child brides as young as 10 years old are often subjected to a life of isolation, poor health and abuse. Child marriage not only violates a girl’s human rights, but it also stifles community, state and global development efforts to end poverty and gender inequality.
ICRW has been at the forefront of exposing the harms caused by child marriage, and identifying solutions to prevent it, for more than 15 years. In 2011, ICRW identified five promising strategies to prevent child marriage. With this latest study, ICRW set out to discover how programs in Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia and India are working to empower both girls at risk of child marriage as well as already-married girls, and how empowerment leads to changes in knowledge, attitudes and practices.
Based on four case studies of programs run by CARE (Ethiopia), BRAC (Bangladesh), Save the Children (Egypt) and Pathfinder International (India), ICRW’s findings show that girl-focused programs expand girls’ ability to make strategic life choices by providing them with access to critical resources.
The information, skills and social support that girls gain through these programs has helped to instill a transformation within them that enables them to envision themselves in roles other than those traditionally expected of them in strict, patriarchal societies. They also introduce girls to alternatives to marriage, such as school and livelihood opportunities, and enhance their ability to influence key ‘gatekeepers’ in their lives, such as parents, husbands or community leaders.
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