Ending child marriage

Worldwide, almost 650 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday and an estimated 280 million more girls are at risk of becoming brides. If current trends continue, the number of girls and women married as children will reach nearly 1 billion by 2030. 

Child marriage is a global violation of human rights that can be found in cultures, religions, ethnicities and countries around the world. Recognizing that only a long-term strategy will ensure the desired outcomes, UNICEF and UNFPA have joined forces and formally launched a multi-country initiative to protect the rights of millions of the world’s most vulnerable girls. The Global Programme to End Child Marriage brings together governments, civil society, families and young people in a collective effort to prevent girls from marrying too young and to support those already married as girls.

To date, more than 1 million girls have been reached through life skills and school attendance support and 1.67 million individuals have been engaged in community-based behavior change and sensitization activities.

How Zonta helps

Zonta International has committed US$2,000,000 to UNICEF USA to support the UNICEF/UNFPA Global Programme to End Child Marriage in 12 countries: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia.

The program is turning commitment into tangible action to effect meaningful and lasting change in girls’ lives by focusing on five main strategies:

  1. Building the skills and knowledge of girls at risk of child marriage
  2. Supporting households in demonstrating positive attitudes towards adolescent girls
  3. Strengthening the systems that deliver services to adolescent girls
  4. Ensuring laws and policies protect and promote adolescent girls’ rights
  5. Generating and using robust data to inform programs and policies relating to adolescent girls.

Under the umbrella of these five main strategies, each country will have specific strategies that respond to the context and factors that lead girls into early marriage.

Expected Outcomes

  1. National laws, policy frameworks and mechanisms to protect and promote adolescent girls’ rights are in line with international standards and properly resourced. 
  2. Government(s) and partners within and across countries support the generation and use of robust data and evidence to inform policy and programming, track progress and document lessons. 
  3. Relevant regional and local government ministries deliver quality and cost-effective services to meet the needs of adolescent girls. 
  4. Households demonstrate positive attitudes and behaviors toward investing in and supporting adolescent girls. 
  5. Adolescent girls at risk of or affected by child marriage are better able to express and exercise their choices.

Read a detailed project description to find out more about this exciting partnership between Zonta International, UNICEF USA and UNFPA. Zonta has been committed to ending child marriage since 2014. Read about our partnership with UNFPA for the Delaying Early Marriage in Niger project.

Stories and updates

During the first phase of the Global Programme to End Child Marriage, girls, boys, family members and communities have been reached by interventions aimed at accelerating action to end child marriage. In August 2019, the program released "Voices of Change," a compilation of stories of the impact of the program and how people around the world take a stance and commit to fight the harmful practice of child marriage. We meet Shama, who thanks to a cash-transfer scheme in India now can study an information technology course in engineering; Janaki in Nepal, who used a school-based reporting mechanism to report her upcoming marriage which allowed her school together with a social worker to intervene with her parents before the wedding could take place; Atsede, who is a leader of a Women’s Development Group in Ethiopia, arranging dialogues in the communities on the harms of child marriage; and Alice, who joined an adolescent girls’ group in Sierra Leone and was supported to go back to school after getting pregnant as a teenager; among others.

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Zonta International is committed to ending child marriage. The new Ending Child Marriage Tools page includes information about child marriage, toolkits and resources to help clubs and individual members in their efforts.