The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and Girls Not Brides (GNB) have examined the practice of child marriage — a form of forced marriage — around the world and found that 70 million young girls are currently married. This year, approximately 14 million child brides will be married off as children (click here for the full ICRW-GNB pamphlet). This is a devastating number, and yet there is some hope on the horizon. The scourge of child marriage (and the broader problem of forced marriage) has begun to attract the attention of the international community, national governments, and a host of advocacy organizations dedicated to combating the practice. Together, they have begun to develop concrete strategies to combat the practice of child marriage.
The ICRW and Girls Not Brides have articulated five specific strategies to reduce the incidence of child marriage in the developing world: empower girls with information, educate parents and the community, enhance access to education, provide economic support, and encourage legislation penalizing child marriage. These strategies may not seem groundbreaking, but they are changing the way the world thinks about child marriage. By focusing on the structural forces that perpetuate child marriage and by educating individuals on the harms of early marriage – not just to the individual, but to society at large — ICRW-GNB is providing girls, boys, men and women with the information and tools needed to end child marriage in their own communities.
While the AHA Foundation’s mandate focuses on instances of forced marriage in the United States (as well as situations where girls from the United States are taken overseas for a forced marriage), we are deeply concerned with the global phenomenon of forced and early marriage. In 2010 and 2012, the United States Congress passed legislation that would authorize funding for international programs that would prevent child marriage and increase access to education for girls. This legislation passed with full bipartisan support. Given the current gridlock in Washington, it is heartening to know that legislators can come together to try and end this horrific practice. The AHA Foundation strongly encourages the continued funding of programs that address the root causes of forced and early marriage, and is proud to be a part of the network of organizations working towards a solution.