UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage

Driving action to reach the girls at greatest risk

Adolescent girls and boys in Uganda
UNICEF/UN0203503/Nakibuuka

The challenge

The girls at greatest risk of early marriage are often those hardest to reach. They come from poor families, marginalized groups or rural areas. They are also more likely to be out of school than their unmarried peers, robbed of the opportunity to thrive and fulfil their potential. Child marriage can lead to further isolation from family, friends and communities, and threaten girls’ livelihood and health.

In 2016, UNICEF, together with UNFPA, launched a global programme to tackle child marriage in 12 of the most high-prevalence or high-burden countries: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia.

Ramatou Abdoul Hamid
UNFPA Niger/Tagaza Djibo
Ramatou took a stand when her parents arranged a marriage for her last year. She protested, and after her mentor and the local imam intervened, her parents relented.

“When I saw teenage girls who refused to marry, I thought they were rebels... But now I understand their refusal. They just want to defend their rights.”

– Ramatou Abdoul Hamidou, 14, from Niger

The solution

Global momentum towards ending child marriage has never been stronger, with several resolutions by the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council urging countries to increase investments in eliminating the practice.

The UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage promotes the rights of adolescent girls to avert marriage and pregnancy, and enables them to achieve their aspirations through education and alternative pathways. The Global Programme supports households in demonstrating positive attitudes, empowers girls to direct their own futures, and strengthens the services that allow them to do so. It also addresses the underlying conditions that sustain child marriage, advocating for laws and policies that protect girls' rights while highlighting the importance of using robust data to inform such policies.

The Global Programme is generously supported by the Governments of Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the European Union, as well as Zonta International.

Some notable results from 2017 show:

  • In Bangladesh, some 68,000 adolescents received counselling and gender-responsive health services thanks to 70 newly established health service centres within existing public facilities.
  • In Ghana, the National Strategic Framework on Ending Child Marriage, the Adolescent Pregnancy Strategy and the Government’s Free Senior High School Policy strengthened the environment for protecting girls’ rights.
  • In Uganda, 27,000 adolescent girls strengthened critical skills through school clubs and Go Back to School campaigns, as well as life-skills and financial literacy training. This enabled them to understand their rights and make informed decisions.
  • In Yemen, 100,000 community members, leaders and religious imams learned about the benefits of delaying marriage and keeping adolescent girls in school through awareness-raising sessions.
Adolescent girls
UNFPA-UNICEF Nepal/2018/KPanday
In Nepal, 40 per cent of girls are married before they turn 18. The Global Programme helps girls at risk of dropping out of school to continue their education and provides training to out-of-school girls to ease their reintegration in the formal education system.

The Global Programme holistically works to achieve results for girls by bringing together the sectors for education, child protection, communication for development, gender, health – including sexual and reproductive health – and water and sanitation. Leveraging partnerships to produce scalable and meaningful change, the Global Programme builds the capacities of governments and non-government organizations while engaging with civil society – including faith-based organizations, academia, the private sector and members of the global network Girls Not Brides – for more harmonized action and accountability.

Resources

Investing in Knowledge for Ending Child Marriage: This report showcases all research produced or supported by the Global Programme in 2016–2017.

Let’s End Child Marriage (English ǀ French): This brochure highlights key results from the twelve implementation countries of the Global Programme in 2017.

Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage Annual Report 2017: In 2017, UNICEF, UNFPA and partners – including young people – leveraged investments to increase outreach and sustainability, reaching over 1 million girls and 4 million community members in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia with information, skills and services related to ending child marriage.

Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage Country Profiles 2017: Building on a global theory of change, the 12 Global Programme implementation countries employed country-specific strategies to tackle child marriage in their own contexts.

Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage Progress Report 2016: This report showcases results from the first year of the Global Programme.