Girl Summit Draws Strong Pledges to End FGM and Child Marriage

Article Date

22 July 2014

Article Author

Ibadet Reller

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

Several ICRW experts were front and center at the first ever Girl Summit, which took place today in London. Sponsored by the UK government and UNICEF, the summit brought together activists, experts and government representatives to mobilize efforts to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage, which together plague hundreds of millions of girls and women worldwide. Both the US and UK governments pledged millions of dollars to combat the harmful practices.

ICRW’s Suzanne Petroni, Senior Director of Gender, Population and Development, Ravi Verma, Director of ICRW’s Asia Regional Office (ARO) and ARO’s Priya Nanda, Group Director for Reproductive Health and Economic Development, all attended the summit. Both Verma and Nanda drew from ICRW’s extensive research on child marriage and shifting gender norms to build more equitable attitudes towards women and girls in presentations at today’s summit.

Nanda highlighted the organization’s ongoing evaluation of a state government conditional cash transfer program to delay girls’ age of marriage and enhance the value of girls in India, while Verma shared ways in which ICRW is shifting adolescents’ views on gender roles and attitudes through its Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS) program. Operational in tens of thousands of schools in India, as well as in other Asian countries, GEMS demonstrates that school-based programs can be highly effective in not only shifting young people’s attitudes, but also in changing harmful behaviors. Verma, who leads the program, explained how children who had participated in the GEMS program sustained critical ideas about equality many years after the program was over, raised their voices against discrimination and violence at critical stages in their lives and asserted girls should be allowed to pursue an education rather than marriage.

A ‘sister’ Girl Summit event also took place in Washington, DC today featuring U.S.-based government representatives, advocates and experts, including ICRW’s Senior Gender and Youth Specialist, Ann Warner.  Participants at the event discussed the two Summit themes – “Sharing What Works” and “Agreeing on an Agenda for Change.” Warner presented ICRW’s recent policy brief that highlights five evidence-based strategies identified by ICRW to delay or prevent child marriage.

“Most of these strategies were used in combination with one another. And when it comes down to it, the most common and effective strategies across all contexts seem to be these basic approaches, which are two sides of the same coin: work with girls who are at risk of early marriage or who are already married; and work with parents, guardian and community members, including men and boys who are fathers, brothers, and future spouses for these young women,” said Warner. 

Panelists discussed current efforts to end and prevent the harmful practice of early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation. Many in the audience were interested in what comes next.

“Individual projects and programs will not end child marriage. This is a global issue, and it demands a global response. Collectively, all the programs that have been developed around the world have reached only a fraction of girls at risk of marriage, and an even smaller fraction of the girls who are already married. We must do more, and that demands a global response, as well as concrete, coordinated and measurable strategies that have ending child marriage as their ultimate goal,” said Warner.

To solidify ICRW’s involvement in finding and scaling up solutions that work to end child marriage and female genital mutilation moving forward, ICRW joined with organizations around the world to co-sign the following commitment:

“We, the undersigned, commit to working together to advance the evidence base that can better inform, support, and track programmes and policies that address FGM/C and CEFM at scale across different countries, so as to end the practices within one generation.”

Take a stand against two of the BIGGEST challenges faced by girls today! Pledge your support to help end child & forced marriage and female genital mutilation. #GirlSummit #EndFGM #EndChildMarriage.

More ways to help? Support ICRW’s work to improve the lives of women and girls around the world through the #OperationGirl Challenge