|Boke, 12, carries a bucket of water to the home she shares with her husband and mother-in-law in Rebu, United Republic of Tanzania. One in three women aged 20–24 was married before she reached the age of 18. One third of these girls entered into marriage before turning 15.|
The inaugural International Day of the Girl Child is 11 October 2012. For its first observance, this year’s Day focuses on child marriage, which is a fundamental human rights violation and has an impact on all aspects of a girl’s life. Child marriage denies a girl of her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk of violence and abuse, jeopardizes her health and therefore constitutes an obstacle to the achievement of nearly every Millennium Development Goal and the development of healthy communities.
For more information about child marriage, click here.
By Rudina Vojdova
NEW YORK, 11 October 2012 - Today marks the first ever International Day of the Girl Child, a day established by the United Nations to highlight the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights. This year’s theme is "Ending Child Marriage", chosen because child marriage denies a girl of her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk of violence and abuse and jeopardizes her health.
To discuss the role of education in ending child marriage and enabling girls to reach their full potential, UNICEF podcast moderator Femi Oke spoke with UNICEF’s Principal Adviser, Gender Rights and Civic Engagement, Dr. Anju Malhotra.
Child marriage widespread
Despite progress made over the past several decades, child marriage continues to be widespread around the world. Currently, one in three young women aged 20–24 was married before she reached the age of 18. One third of these girls entered into marriage before turning 15.
Child marriage is found in practically every region of the world, but the rate of women 20 to 24 years old who were married before they reached age 18 is higher in South Asia (46 per cent), sub-Saharan Africa (38 per cent) and Latin America and Caribbean (29 per cent).
Progress uneven; education linked
According to Dr. Malhotra, progress has been made, but for some countries it has been much too slow. “The best thing that happens over time is that, as countries develop, and especially as girls are getting educated, child marriage declines. There are countries that 30 to 40 years ago used to have high rates of child marriage but have now grown out of that, such as Taiwan and Indonesia. But, in many other countries, the process has been very slow – and, in the last decade or so, we have not seen the types of improvement that we would like to see,” she said.
Explaining the link between education and child marriage, Dr. Malhotra brought up the example of Taiwan, where high economic growth paired with a serious investment in girls’ education has led to a tremendous decline in child marriage. “From everything that we are seeing, girls’ education is the single biggest preventative to ending child marriage. That solution has to be part of a package.”
When it comes to ending child marriage globally, Dr. Malhotra is realistic, but hopeful for the future. “I would like to see child marriage to be eradicated in one generation – that is, 20 to 25 years. It seems a very long time, but we are talking about 150 million girls facing the risk of getting married as children in the next decade. We need to start moving fast because so many lives are at risk, and I think we can do it,” she concluded.
UNICEF podcast moderator Femi Oke speaks with UNICEF’s Principal Adviser, Gender Rights and Civic Engagement, Dr. Anju Malhotra, on the role of education in ending child marriage and enabling girls to reach their full potential.
'Beyond School Books'
The following stories are part of the 'Beyond School Books' series focusing on education during emergencies.
Segment #74: Young people provide strategic advice on education issues
Segment #73: Girls advocate for girls' education and gender equality