UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Shakira promotes the end of child marriages around the world.
The United Nations on October 11 marked the first International Day of the Girl Child by calling for an end to child marriage, and stressing education as one of the best strategies for protecting girls against this harmful practice.
‘Education for girls is one of the best strategies for protecting girls against child marriage,’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day. ‘When they are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, girls can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families.
‘Let us do our part to let girls be girls, not brides,’ he said, urging governments, community and religious leaders, civil society, the private sector, and families – especially men and boys – to promote the rights of girls. Secretary-General Ban also noted that the Day is also an occasion to highlight the ‘alarming’ levels of discrimination, violence and abuse that girls still face worldwide, and recalled the recent ‘heinous’ attack on three school girls in Pakistan. The main target of the attack, Malala Yousufzai, is a champion of girls’ education and girls’ rights.
‘The attack on her was abhorrent and cowardly. The terrorists showed what frightens them most: a girl with a book,’ said the secretary-general. ‘Nowhere in the world should it be an act of bravery for a young girl to go to school.’
Around 70 million young women today were married before age 18, according to the UN, which notes that child marriage denies a girl her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk of being a victim of violence and abuse, and jeopardises her health.
Girls with low levels of schooling are more likely to be married early, and child marriage has been shown to almost always end a girl’s education, the world body adds. Conversely, girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as children, making education one of the most effective ways of combating child marriage.
If current trends continue, the number of girl child marriages will increase dramatically over the next ten years, according to Marrying too Young: End Child Marriage, a new report released by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). It also finds that, despite laws to prevent its practice, child marriage has remained mostly constant in developing countries in the past decade.
UN agency UNICEF says that experiences in a number of countries show how combining legal measures with support to communities, providing viable alternatives – especially schooling – and enabling communities to discuss and reach the explicit, collective decision to end child marriage, yields positive results.
Read more at www.un.org/en/events/girlchild.