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HOW CAN WE END CHILD MARRIAGE?

In recent years child marriage has gained increasing prominence on international
and national development agendas. Today, we have a unique opportunity to act on
this momentum and accelerate our efforts to help change the lives of girls and young
women all over the world.
Ending child marriage requires work across all sectors and at all levels. It requires us
to understand the complex drivers behind the practice in different contexts and adapt
our interventions accordingly.
Girls Not Brides has developed a Theory of Change to demonstrate the range of
approaches needed to address child marriage, and crucially highlight that everyone
has a role to play. The Theory of Change stresses the importance of long-term,
sustainable interventions that are coordinated, well-resourced and the result of
shared learning.
Within the Theory of Change, four categories show where the majority of our efforts
are aligned: empowering girls, mobilising families and communities, providing
services and establishing and implementing laws and policies. Ending child marriage
requires work which is mutually reinforcing across these areas.
These four strategy areas are used to illustrate the types of effective interventions
that are helping to prevent child marriage and support married girls all over the
world.

EMPOWER GIRLS
Working directly with girls to give them the opportunity to build skills and knowledge,
understand and exercise their rights and develop support networks, is an important
part of our efforts to end child marriage.
Using an empowerment approach can lead to positive outcomes for girls and their
families by supporting girls to become agents of change, helping them envisage
what alternative roles could look like in their communities and ultimately helping
them to forge their own pathway in life.
SAFE SPACE PROGRAMMES

Safe space programmes which offer a varied curriculum covering life skills, health
and financial literacy can provide girls with an opportunity to build their skills, learn
and meet friends and mentors in an informal setting and learn about the services
they can access in their community.
Safe space programmes can successfully build girls’ self-confidence, agency and
self-efficacy, which they need to thrive. They can provide a good alternative for girls
who do not have access to formal education such as married girls. Having a safe
regular meeting place allows girls to meet with peers and share experiences which
can reduce their sense of isolation and vulnerability.

Interventions targeting fathers. SUPPORTING YOUNG PEOPLE TO BE AGENTS OF CHANGE Supporting young people to be agents of change can be an effective and empowering process in and of itself. holding community conversations and using a variety of creative techniques such as street theatre and art to reflect on the practice of child marriage and communicate its harmful impacts for girls and their communities. At the grassroots. Without change at this level. the day-to-day reality for girls all over the world will remain the same. it is often driven by inequitable gender norms such as an emphasis on protecting a girls’ (or her family’s) honour by controlling her sexuality. Whether the practice is cited as cultural or religious. husbands and future husbands are important in helping men and boys reflect on the status quo and see the benefits of a community which values and supports girls and women to fulfil their potential. organisations are driving change by campaigning. too. the values and norms which support the practice of child marriage need to shift. have the potential to play a key role in speaking out against child marriage and changing community attitudes. such as conditional cash transfers. . and building the capacity of young people are all ways of supporting young people to be champions of change in their own communities. In communities where religious and traditional leaders play a prominent role in decision-making or influencing the prevailing norms. COMMUNITY LEVEL CHANGE Community level change underpins all of our efforts in preventing child marriage and mitigating the harmful effects for married girls. WORKING WITH MEN AND BOYS Working with men and boys is a critical part of our efforts to end child marriage.Some of these programmes have economic empowerment components. For change to happen. Youth groups. or the provision of a goat or chicken. Many organisations work with young people so they can advocate for change as well as helping to inform the design of programmes that directly benefit their peers. Working with families and the wider community to raise awareness of the harmful consequences of child marriage can change attitudes and reduce the acceptance among those who make the decision to marry girls as children. encouraging dialogue between youth and community leaders. targeted interventions can support them to become positive advocates for change who fully understand the implications of child marriage for girls and their families. which have proven successful in increasing the age of marriage. In many communities it is the men who hold the power and make the decisions. RELIGIOUS AND TRADITIONAL LEADERS Religious and traditional leaders. brothers. MOBILISE FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES Many families and communities see child marriage as a deeply rooted practice which has been part of their culture for generations.

Ending child marriage requires us to review the services available to girls as well as asking how they reinforce one another and how they can be strengthened. YOUTH-FRIENDLY HEALTH SERVICES Both unmarried and married girls need high quality. The most vulnerable girls who have no access to a quality education. The very act of girls attending school can reinforce to the community that girls of school-going age are still children. ACCESSIBLE. youth-friendly health services to live healthy and safe lives. Child protection services need to be accessible via a number of channels. ADEQUATE CHILD PROTECTION MECHANISMS Ensuring there are adequate child protection mechanisms in place is an important part of our efforts to end child marriage. For married girls. high quality and safe schooling is a critical strategy in ending child marriage and ensuring married girls have the opportunity to complete their education. are at a much greater risk of child marriage than girls who do.CHANGING NORMS AT SCALE Changing norms at scale is integral to the process of change and a growing number of organisations are using mass media campaigns and other innovative methods such as radio. Keeping girls in school is an effective way to prevent girls marrying but it is not enough. Girls need to know about their bodies as well as the types of services and healthcare available to them. opens new opportunities and can help to shift norms around the value of girls in the community. undertaking parttime. PROVIDE SERVICES Addressing child marriage and supporting the needs of married girls requires us to consider the economic and structural drivers which act as a barrier to ending child marriage. Girls need the support to make the transition into secondary school. community workers and the police. healthcare or child protection mechanisms. TV and digital media to raise awareness of girls’ rights and the impact of child marriage. Education builds knowledge. remote or vocational learning. Working with service providers to build their capacity can help to ensure that cases of child marriage in the community are responded to effectively. Messages that promote new norms. Making sure health services are youth-friendly and that girls are able to access care without judgement and without male supervision is also important. role models and positive deviants show positive signs of being an effective way to change attitudes and behaviours around the value of girls and women. healthcare providers. Many girls in the developing world have an unmet need for sexual reproductive health care which can put them at risk of early pregnancy and contracting HIV and other STIs. including education. . HIGH QUALITY AND SAFE SCHOOLING Increasing access to accessible. Establishing protocols on identifying the warning signs and addressing the risks of child marriage is a key part of this work. it is important that schools encourage and support them to continue their education in either an informal or formal setting such as being part of a safe space programme. HIGH QUALITY.

Furthermore. the age of marriage is often higher for men than it is for women and many countries continue to have a legal age of marriage lower than in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. However for change to be truly transformative. ensuring girls have the opportunity to become financially literate and have the ability to open and easily access a bank account (without male supervision) can help them save in a secure way and become financially independent. implementing and resourcing laws and policies which prevent child marriage is an important step towards recognising and upholding girls’ rights. Introducing economic incentives such as conditional cash transfers can help encourage families to consider alternatives to child marriage by alleviating their economic hardship and reframing the daughter as a valued part of the family rather than an economic burden. many countries have a pluralistic legal system meaning customary law often contradicts and overrides national law making enforcement difficult. governments must show strong political leadership by making the issue of national importance and providing adequate financial resourcing across ministries to tackle the issue holistically. Gender discrimination and loopholes in the law continue to be rife especially when it comes to issues around parental consent. REGISTERING BIRTHS AND MARRIAGES Registering births and marriages helps prevent child marriage by proving the age of a girl and her partner and means that girls and women are able to seek financial and legal redress if the marriage ends. IMPLEMENTING AND RESOURCING LAWS AND POLICIES Strengthening. While most countries legislate for a minimum legal age of marriage. healthy and empowered lives. STRENGTHENING. . Many countries lack robust legal and policy frameworks which can help to prevent the practice and support married girls.ECONOMIC SECURITY Girls and women also need to have economic security if they are to live safe. Economic empowerment schemes such as microfinance or village savings and loan schemes can help girls to support themselves and their families without having to be married. separation and divorce and access to professional services and support. changes in social norms and girls’ empowerment. A strong legal and policy system can provide an important backdrop for improvements in services. the right to own and inherit property. Furthermore. ESTABLISH AND IMPLEMENT LAWS AND POLICIES Laws and policies play an essential part in preventing child marriage.

for example. which safeguards a child from being married when they are not physically. WHY SHOULD 18 BE THE MINIMUM AGE OF MARRIAGE? Girls Not Brides members believe that 18 should be the minimum age for marriage in line with international human rights standards. Other exceptions allow customary or religious laws that set lower minimum ages of marriage to take precedence over national law. The existence of laws that set a minimum age for marriage is an important tool that helps those working to dissuade families and communities from marrying off their daughters as children. they do not have the right to vote or enter into other contracts recognised in law? The most widely accepted definition for a child is 18. rather than challenge. Legal frameworks can reinforce. It is important that children are recognised in the law as being children and that they are accorded the full protection of the law. However. gender inequalities.[1] The World Policy Analysis Center found that 54 countries allow for girls to marry between one and three years younger than boys.CHILD MARRIAGE & THE LAW WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR COUNTRIES TO HAVE A MINIMUM LEGAL AGE OF MARRIAGE? Laws that set a minimum age of marriage are an important way to safeguard boys and girls from being married before they are ready. Governments need to have clear and consistent legislation that establishes 18 as the minimum age of marriage. A minimum age of marriage of 18 will also help to ensure that children are able to give their free and full consent to marry and have the minimum level of maturity needed before marrying. Why allow children to marry at an age when. in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. DO ALL COUNTRIES HAVE A MINIMUM AGE OF MARRIAGE? Most countries around the world have laws that set a minimum age of marriage. According to a recent mapping of minimum age of marriage laws by the World Policy Analysis Center. many countries provide exceptions to the minimum age of marriage. Adequate safeguards must be in place to ensure that parental consent or other exceptions are not used to force girls into marriage. mentally or emotionally ready. Setting the minimum age of marriage at 18 provides an objective rather than subjective standard of maturity. 93 countries legally allow girls to marry before the age of 18 with parental consent. usually at age 18. . Such exceptions undermine the efficacy of legal protections against child marriage. upon parental consent or authorisation of the court.

. and Registration of Marriage Convention on the Rights of the Child Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Also known as ‘The Maputo Protocol’) African Charter on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child Inter-American Convention on Human Rights HOW USEFUL ARE INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL STANDARDS ON MINIMUM AGE OF MARRIAGE IN PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM CHILD MARRIAGE? International and regional agreements prohibiting child marriage set standards that governments should adhere to in protecting children from being married before they are ready. implemented and enforced Lack of birth and marriage registration Discrepancies between formal and religious or customary law on the minimum age of marriage IS MINIMUM AGE OF MARRIAGE LEGISLATION ENOUGH TO END CHILD MARRIAGE? WHAT ELSE IS NEEDED? As well as having strong and enforceable minimum age of marriage legislation. their enforcement is often weak. and may include: Lack of awareness and training among law enforcement officials and other relevant professionals to ensure that laws are understood. They can be used to hold governments accountable for failure to implement and enforce their obligations related to child marriage under these conventions. In order to prevent child marriage. law reform is only one part of the solution. Minimum Age for Marriage. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IN ENFORCING LAWS THAT PROHIBIT CHILD MARRIAGE? Even where strong legal frameworks exist.WHAT DOES INTERNATIONAL LAW SAY ABOUT CHILD MARRIAGE? Child marriage or marriage without the free and full consent of both spouses is a human rights violation and is not in line with several international and regional agreements. The reasons for non-implementation of the law can vary from one context to another. including:        Universal Declaration of Human Rights Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Convention on Consent to Marriage. However. it is imperative that to have strong supporting legislation which protects women and girls’ rights. These standards also act as an accountability measure: governments have to report to the committees that oversee them about how they are implementing the standards standards. a holistic and comprehensive approach must be adopted which addresses the root causes of child marriage.