Act Now: Accelerating gender equality by eliminating child marriage in a pandemic
UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage Annual Report 2020
In the last decade, 25 million child marriages have been averted thanks to accelerated progress in eliminating the practice. However, the speed of elimination is not enough to meet the ambitious target of the Sustainable Development Goals: to end child marriage by 2030. Progress seen is now also under further threat due to the adverse impacts of COVID-19: an additional 10 million girls are now at risk of becoming child brides by the end of the decade because of the pandemic.
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Building on achievements since its inception in 2016, the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage launched its second phase in 2020, with an emphasis on gender-transformative and human rights-based programming, strengthened global partnerships and a clearly defined learning agenda.
“COVID-19 has made an already difficult situation for millions of girls even worse. Shuttered schools, isolation from friends and support networks, and rising poverty have added fuel to a fire the world was already struggling to put out. But we can, and we must, extinguish child marriage.”
Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF
The Global Programme adapted to COVID-19 realities in 2020. The limitations on interpersonal contact as a result of pandemic control measures prompted the programme to embrace digital and other innovative solutions and approaches. Hence, the Global Programme increased digital engagement, promoted behavior change through online modalities, advocated to include child marriage prevention and response services in essential services that could continue to run during lockdowns, and enhanced mental health and psychosocial support services for girls, their families and service providers. Where possible, the Global Programme conducted empowerment sessions with adolescent girls and community dialogues in smaller groups, in outdoor settings and with the provision of personal protective equipment.
“Getting to zero may prove difficult, yet I have no doubt it is achievable. After all, some harmful practices have persisted over centuries. Yet change will—and must—come.”
Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UNFPA
The programmatic pivot towards digital and other innovative solutions ensured that the Global Programme could continue to deliver on its targets during 2020:
More than 4 million girls participated in empowerment programmes.
More than 160,000 girls enrolled – and helped to stay – in school
More than 6 million boys and men engaged in dialogues on harmful gender norms.
More than 1,100 service delivery points improved quality of health and protection services for girls.
Going forward, the Global Programme will continue to respond to the rapidly changing global context by:
- Expanding inclusive digital solutions to ensure we leave no one behind
- Strengthening health, education and protection services
- Reaching out through community mechanisms to engage girls and women, men and boys
- Building platforms that empower girls to speak up
- Holding governments accountable for the protection of girls’ rights