Q&A: child marriage and the right to education

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Thursday, 10 October, 2013

"Girls in secondary education are up to six times less likely to marry underage." On Friday 11 October, people around the world will celebrate Day of the Girl and highlight girls' right to education. Read our Q&A to find out why ending child marriage can help keep girls in school.

Girls in school uniform

What is the International Day of the Girl?

Celebrated on 11 October, International Day of the Girl Child highlights girls’ rights and recognises the unique challenges faced by girls around the world.

The first-ever Day of the Girl took place in 2012 and focused on the issue of child marriage. This year’s theme is ‘Innovating for Girls’ Education’.

Why focus on education?

Education for girls is not just a basic right; it is also a powerful transformative force for girls and their societies. There is overwhelming evidence that educating girls leads to improvements in infant and maternal health, poverty reduction and equitable growth, and democratisation and women’s empowerment.

However, this transformative potential has yet to be realised everywhere. Many girls are still prevented from attending school because they are unable to access the school safely, because their families cannot afford it or need their daughters to carry out household chores, or because their communities simply don’t see enough value in educating girls.

How does child marriage affect education?

When the Elders visited the Amhara region of Ethiopia in 2011, Mary Robinson asked one young woman what she remembered of her wedding day. “It was the day I stopped going to school,” she replied.

There are strong correlations between high rates of child marriage and low levels of education for girls. Over 60 per cent of child brides in developing countries have had no formal schooling at all. Child brides are often practically and legally excluded from continuing their education – married children are half as likely to be in school as children who aren’t married.

What’s the scale of the problem?

Huge. Child marriage is a global problem that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. If nothing is done, an estimated 142 million girls around the world will marry as children between 2010 and 2020. That is more than 14 million girls every year.

How can focusing on education help us end child marriage?

Keeping girls in school – and particularly secondary school – is one key way to reinforce the perception that they are still children and not ready for marriage. Girls in secondary education are up to six times less likely to marry underage.

By staying in school, girls are able to develop the skills and knowledge that empower them to claim their rights. They are more likely to be able to make free and informed decisions, including whether and at what age to get married – and who to marry.

How can I help?

Visit the website of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage for more information on the International Day of the Girl and what you can do to get involved.

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