Protection of children from violence, abuse and exploitation

Child Protection


International Day of the Girl Child, 11 October 2012

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-2248/Anita Khemka
Women and adolescent girls hold out their right hands in a pledge to abolish child marriage, in Dehra Village, Jodhpur District, Rajasthan State

A platform for sustained action and commitment to empower girls and protect their rights

New Delhi, 11 October 2012 – This day marks the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child, designated by the United Nations as a day to promote the rights of girls, and to address the unique challenges that they face. As the lead UN agency for the Day of the Girl, UNICEF, in consultation with other UN agencies, has determined that the theme for this year’s Day of the Girl Child is child marriage.

The broader strategy for UNICEF is to leverage the Day of the Girl Child as a platform for continued momentum to mobilize action and resources on this important issue in the months to come rather than be limited to a single day event. 

Watch video on community leaders taking a pledge against child marriage

Child marriage is an issue that requires sustained efforts for increased attention and stronger commitment on the development agenda. The moment is ripe for drawing greater resources and policy action to child marriage:

1. Ending Child Marriage is part of the solution for achieving almost every desired goal for children: Child marriage directly impacts six of the eight MDGs, including child survival, girl’s education, maternal mortality, and HIV rates.  Ending child marriage means preserving a girl’s childhood, promoting her education, and decreasing her risk of violence, abuse, illness, and death. It also means stopping the transmission of intergenerational poverty.

2. Child Marriage is a BIG problem:  Most recent UNICEF estimates indicate that 70 million—or 1 in 3--young women aged 20-24 were married as children (under age 18), with 23 million of them having been married before they were 15.  Globally, almost 400 million women aged 20-49 (over 40%) were married while they were children, while in South Asia 46% of women aged 20-24 were married before their 18th birthday

3. Child Marriage is gaining local and global attention: High prevalence countries—such as India, Ethiopia , Bangladesh, Malawi—as well as global leaders and donors—the Elders, the European Union, DFID, the U.S. State Department--have started to focus on child marriage as a priority issue and are poised for partnership and resource mobilization.

4. Child Marriage is already a focus of UNICEF’s work:  In 2011, 34 country offices, from all regions, reported efforts to address child marriage. An additional 24 countries mentioned it as a concern for their country. At the country and global levels, UNICEF is working to develop stronger programmes and policies, including those aimed at addressing social norms and the economic and cultural realities that perpetuate child marriage.

Thus, in addition to key events on October 11, celebrating the first International Day of the Girl Child, UNICEF will pursue every opportunity to highlight the issue of child marriage.  For example, the progress report on A Promise Renewed, released on September 13, 2012, includes the latest data on child marriage and explains its importance to child survival.  In the General Assembly activities around the Secretary-General’s Global Initiative on Education, UNICEF will be highlighting the strong connection between girls schooling and child marriage.

Through the upcoming year, UNICEF will continue to advance the issue of child marriage by organizing and participating in various initiatives, including, but not limited to:  a consultation on a research agenda for empowering girls; developing a regional adolescent agenda in South Asia; developing a global action plan on child marriage; advocating for inclusion of reduced child marriage rates as an indicator in the Post 2015 agenda.


For more information, please contact:

Jean–Jacques Simon,
Regional Chief of Communications,
UNICEF South Asia
Mobile # +919910532314
Email #

Rajat Madhok,
Regional Communication Specialist,
UNICEF South Asia
Mobile # +919818103787
Email #



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