GIRLS in 26 countries are more likely to be forced into marriage than to enroll in secondary school, research from CARE has found.
The report, Vows of Poverty, has been released to mark the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11 and provides a snapshot of the forces that drive girls into marriage and out of school.
The report found:
– 39,000 girls around the world are forced to marry each day. That equates to a new child marriage every two seconds.
– 62 million girls are not in school. Half of them are adolescents.
“Girls should not be forced to walk down the aisle in greater numbers than into secondary school classrooms,” said CARE Australia chief executive Dr Julia Newton-Howes.
“Every time a girl under 18 is forced into a marriage or prevented from attending school, it’s a missed opportunity to improve that girl’s life and strike at the roots of poverty.
“A girl’s income-earning potential increases by 20 per cent for every school year she completes beyond year four.”
The situation is worst in Niger, with 76 per cent of girls marrying before age 18 and only 10 per cent enrolling in secondary school.
Chad, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Somalia follow, each with at least a 40 per cent gap between their rates of child marriage and of secondary school enrollment for girls. Sub-Saharan Africa has by far the highest rates of child marriage; this at a time when Australia’s foreign aid to the region was cut by 70 per cent in this year’s budget.
Many of the underlying causes of child marriage – including social norms that devalue women and girls – apply across all the countries.
Other forces are localised, from the trafficking of girls in Mauritania to dowry considerations in Bangladesh or civil wars in countries such as Afghanistan, Mali and Syria.
Vows of Poverty also highlights solutions to child marriage, including CARE programs and steps taken by national governments to enforce existing laws against the practice; in some instances, police and girls’ advocates have set up phone hotlines and safe houses for at-risk girls.
To support CARE’s work lifting women, girls and whole communities out of poverty, please visit www.care.org.au/donate, call 1800 DONATE (1800 020 046). A donation of $69 can send a girl to school and $100 can help a woman start a small business.