WASHINGTON, D.C.– The International Center for Research on Women today released a new report, “More Power to Her: How Empowering Girls Can Help End Child Marriage,” which shows how and why investing in girls is critical to the global movement to end child marriage. The practice, which cuts across global cultures and religions, turns at least 14 million girls worldwide into child brides every year, violating their basic human rights – and hindering larger international development efforts.
“This report comes at a critical time as the post-2015 sustainable development goals are being debated in advance of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York later this month,” said Ann Warner, Senior Gender and Youth Specialist at ICRW and lead author of the report. “We know that investing in women and girls is crucial to eliminating global poverty and strengthening economies. That’s why we must place adolescent girls at the center of the next global development agenda – investing in their education, their health and their futures – to ensure real lasting progress.”
ICRW has been at the forefront of exposing the harms caused by child marriage, and identifying solutions to prevent it, for more than 15 years. In 2011, ICRW identified five promising strategies to prevent child marriage. With this latest study, ICRW set out to discover how programs in Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia and India are working to empower both girls at risk of child marriage as well as already-married girls, and how empowerment leads to changes in knowledge, attitudes and practices.
Based on four case studies – programs run by CARE (Ethiopia), BRAC (Bangladesh), Save the Children (Egypt) and Pathfinder International (India) – ICRW’s findings show that girl-focused programs expand girls’ ability to make strategic life choices by providing them with access to critical resources. The information, skills and social support that they gain help to instill a transformation within girls that enables them to envision themselves in roles other than those traditionally expected them to take on in strict, patriarchal societies. They also introduce girls to alternatives to marriage, such as school and livelihood opportunities, and enhance their ability to influence key ‘gatekeepers’ in their lives, such as parents, husbands or community leaders.
“While girls alone cannot end child marriage, we have found that empowering girls is a critical piece of the puzzle,” Warner added. “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help girls be agents of change for the next global development agenda. If ending child marriage is not made a priority in the sustainable development goals that the United Nations will be finalizing over the course of the next 12 months, the potential of tens of millions more girls will almost certainly be lost for years to come.”
Note to Editors: To mark the release of the report, a panel discussion will take place today in Washington, DC at 9:30AM, at 1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, and features high level speakers from ICRW, CARE, Pathfinder, BRAC USA and the Packard Foundation.