Ten million more girls could marry by 2035

In the eve of international day of the girl a report released today by the International Humanitarian Aid Agency, World Vision estimates that reduced opportunities will force 110 million girls into child marriage by 2035, 10 million more than expected due to the effects of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current economic and hunger crisis.

The report entitled “Fight for the Future” (Fighting for the Future), looks at opportunities for girls in 40 low- and middle-income countries, including the 20 with the highest rates of child marriage. The report found that 52% of girls in countries with the lowest levels of opportunity are expected to be forced into child marriage.

“Each year, approximately 12 million girls are married before their 18th birthday, putting them at high risk of sexual abuse, domestic violence, depression and educational attrition. This study compares 40 countries and shows the strong relationship that exists between the opportunities, economic, educational, political and representation a girl has in her community and society and the risk of becoming a child bride,” explains Eloisa Molina, Director of Communications at World Vision.

“World Vision believes that the world has both the knowledge and the resources to break this vicious cycle by ensuring that every girl, no matter where she is born, is protected from the violence of child marriage, can make decisions, to build the life you want and unleash your full potential. What we need is political will.”

The report reveals the marked differences that exist, even between neighboring countries, in terms of opportunity which girls have. A girl born in Namibia, with a 7% child marriage rate, will have 1.3 times more opportunities than if born in neighboring Mozambique, with a 53% child marriage rate. A woman is eight times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy in a country with few opportunities than in a country with many.

Big differences

“There is no reason why millions of girls should be forced into marriage every year. We are seeing the situation worsen after the COVID-19 pandemic: research now shows that 10 million more girls will be subjected to child marriage by 2035 due to the economic and crisis famine and the effects of lockdown during the pandemic,” says Eloise Molina.

Fight for the Future asks governments and donors which address all aspects of girls’ opportunities, including their empowerment, ensuring access to education and prioritizing inclusive economic development. The report states that education is the main indicator of opportunities for girls and reducing the risk of child marriage. A girl who lives in a country with the lowest educational opportunities is 60% more likely to be a child bride than a girl who lives in a country with the highest level of educational opportunities.

Andrew Morley, President and CEO of World Vision International, adds: “Child marriage robs girls of their potential in an instant, forcing them into lives of excruciating abuse and violence. Our team is on the front lines around the world, empowering and protecting girls and boys, teaching them their rights and ensuring they stay in school. I became convinced of the success of the children themselves in changing attitudes in the community.”

“However, many of these abuses continue in the shadows and we need more support to tackle this injustice. We owe it to all girls around the world to ensure that they enjoy childhoods free of abuse, educated and have the same opportunities to excel, no matter where in the world they are born.

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