More than 110 million girls will be forced into marriage between now and 2035

Diminishing opportunities will force 110 million girls into marriage by 2035, 10 million more than expected due to the effects of the lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing hunger and economic crisis, as the NGO World Vision warns in its report “Fighting In the future’.

The paper, published on the eve of the International Day of the Girl, which is celebrated every October 11, analyzes opportunities for girls in 40 low- and middle-income countries, including the 20 with the highest rates of child marriage. It thus concludes 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 and they are at high risk of sexual abuse, domestic violence, depression, and educational detention. This study compares 40 countries and shows the strong relationship that exists between economic, educational and political opportunities and the representation a girl has in her community and society and the risk of becoming a child bride,” explains Eloisa Molina, World Vision’s Director of Communications .

“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, is able to make decisions , to build the life you want and unfold your full potential. What we need is political will,” he added.

In Mozambique, the child marriage rate is 53%

The report reveals the stark disparities that exist, even between neighboring countries, in terms of opportunities for girls. For example, a girl born in Namibia, with a child marriage rate of 7%, will have 1.3 times more opportunities than if she were born in a neighboring Mozambique, with a child marriage rate of 53%. Furthermore, a woman is eight times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy in a country with few options than in a country with many.

“There is no reason why millions of girls should be forced into marriage every year. We see a worsening of the situation after the COVID-19 pandemic: research now shows that an additional 10 million girls will be subjected to child marriage by 2035 due to the economic and hunger crisis and the consequences of the lockdown during the pandemic », confirms Molina.

Fight for the Future calls on governments and donors to address all aspects of girls’ opportunities, including empowering girls, 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. At this point, she points out that a girl who lives in a country with the lowest educational opportunities has 60% more likely to be a child bridecompared to a girl living in a country with the highest level of educational opportunities.

“Child marriage robs girls of their potential in an instant, forcing them into a life of heartbreaking abuse and violence. Our staff are on the front lines around the world, empowering and protecting girls and boys, teaching them their rights and ensuring they stay in school. I saw the success of children themselves in changing attitudes in the community,” said World Vision International President and CEO Andrew Morley.

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

A Healthy and Safe Manifesto to seek their rights

On the other hand, more than 100 girls from nine different countries have met in recent months to talk about the situation of violence they are subjected to around the world and gathered their demands and requests in the global manifesto “Sanas y Salvas”, prepared personally together with Entreculturas and its LIGHT OF NIÑAS campaign, together with Fe y Alegría and the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).

The document is a collective construction that started from 11 local councils held in different countries around the world. After local level work sessions, girls from Guatemala, South Sudan, Spain, El Salvador, Peru, Honduras, Kenya, Nicaragua and Chad drafted the manifesto after meeting virtually in the first global workshop.

In this space, the girls were able to share experiences, ideas and suggestions. This was the case for Lamaku, a participating girl from South Sudan, who called for sisterhood in her speech: “We all know the violence and inequalities we suffer, and those we have seen in other countries. Girls must be united and fight together for our own survival, to have our rights as girls and to be strong.”

In the document, the participants — as representatives of the world’s girls — are gathered 11 petitions to promote international protection of their human rights and present them to various public institutions where the girls have raised their voices.

Thus, the manifesto calls on governments to work to eradicate harmful practices against girls such as gender-based violence, child abuse, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation. It further calls on states to ensure access to quality education for all girls worldwide, a robust protection system against violence against girls and protection against child labour, among other demands.

Entreculturas is committed to education as the best formula for improving the lives of girls around the world. However, they are the ones with the most barriers to access to education: before Covid-19 it was thought that 130 million girls between the ages of 6 and 17 have not attended school, a figure that has increased and that since the pandemic it is estimated that 20 million girls have not been able to return to class. This situation multiplies their chances of experiencing exploitation, abuse, early and forced marriage or female genital mutilation, among other forms of violence.

However, girls around the world have grown tired of waiting for governments to guarantee effective protection of their rights and have mobilized. As Benedikte, a 12-year-old Congolese refugee in Uganda, argues: “We girls can create our own communities to fight. In our generation, most girls are bold. We are different and I think we can change the world.”

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