When young girls marry early, it eliminates their opportunity to complete their education.
Early marriage is common in many African and Asian countries, but the fact that it is accepted does not make the consequences to girls less serious. We have an obligation to address this human rights violation on a global basis.
When young girls marry early, it eliminates their opportunity to complete their education, depriving them of the economic benefits realized from completing even a minimal number of years of schooling. This then continues the cycle of poverty and stunts the development of entire communities.
Early marriage can also violate children’s basic rights to a childhood, to proactive healthcare and to make informed decision about their own lives.
Most countries have declared 18 as the minimum legal age of marriage. Despite the sanctions against child marriage, however, more than 100 million girls under the age of 18 are expected to marry in the next decade.
This means 100 million girls will be robbed of their basic rights of childhood and in most circumstances, the right to continuing their education.
Where would you be if you had been forced to marry at age 14 or 15? What opportunities would you have missed out on, and what negative consequences would you be living with today?
The tragic truth is that early marriage alters the course of a girl’s life — and she can never regain what was lost.
While the practice of early marriage has, in general, decreased globally over the last 30 years, it remains common among the poorest of the poor. We must bring awareness to this global issue and allow girls to take advantage of the opportunities available to them when their marriages are delayed. This is one of the proven ways we can help end poverty in developing nations.
Impoverished parents often believe that child marriage will offer protection and support for their daughters. In fact, it results in limited life options and greater risk to their health. Child marriage takes place almost exclusively within the context of poverty and is indicative of gender inequality.
Instead, we must provide opportunities for girls to continue their education or earn money to encourage the delay of marriage and the expansion of life skills and choices.
Through the Unstoppable Foundation, we are helping girls realize their future possibilities. Every school we build and every village we sponsor makes future success for girls more attainable and more likely to help end poverty.
Ending early marriage is more than a good thing to do; it is essential if we are truly committed to giving entire communities additional tools to lift themselves out of poverty — for today and for future generations.