In order to see the transformational impact of girls on the world, the global development community must do more to protect them in vulnerable situations. One of the most prominent threats to the healthy development of girls is child marriage. While communities and governments around the world have committed to ending child marriage, it remains a global crisis. One in three girls in the developing world, excluding China, are married before age 18, and one in nine under age 15. That means 47,000 girls are married each day, and 17.4 million girls per year.
Research by the Population Council shows programs educating girls and communities on the rights of women and teaching girls vocational skills have reduced the likelihood of child marriage by one third in Bangladesh. Interventions have been more scalable when incorporating community conversations around how to ensure the health and well-being of vulnerable girls.
GHR is working to end child marriage in vulnerable communities along Kenya's coast—where 22.9% of women aged 20-24 were married before age 18—by funding the Dialogue and Action Project (DAP). Catholic Relief Services is partnering with the Catholic Dioceses of Malindi and the Coast Interfaith Council of Clerics to promote girls’ right to education, raise awareness of the dangers of early marriage, improve systems for reporting child abuse and strengthening the economic status of vulnerable families through micro-lending programs.
A recent evaluation of DAP found particular projects, including peace clubs, Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) and inter-religious initiatives, effectively reduce rates of child marriage. These community groups help bridge barriers, allow community members to focus on ending the crisis and raise awareness on the dangers of early marriage. The study found:
- 80% of the community considers child marriage a harmful practice, up from 67% at midterm
- Incidences of child marriage have reduced drastically since the project began intervening, according to key informants
- Awareness on the consequences of child marriages was as high as 96%
- 67% of community SILC participants reported having used loans to support girls’ education
- 70% of lending SILC members were engaged in actions preventing child marriages, and 52% reported having spoken out against child marriage in public
Child marriage is a human rights violation. By allowing it to continue, the world prevents girls from reaching their potential, and we risk wasting the immense creativity, talent and power of girls around the world. Declaring the practice illegal is not enough—community-level efforts to change norms and practices are the real fulcrum of change. To learn more about how GHR is partnering with organizations working to prevent child marriage in Kenya and around the world, contact us.