World Vision UK’s Senior Child Protection expert, Aimyleen Gabriel (bottom right in the above photo), looks at why child marriage is a growing problem.
About a year ago, I visited some of World Vision's work in Lebanon. On this trip, I had the chance to meet Syrian children at a refugee camp. I sat listening to them along with a couple of colleagues in a small room turned into a colourful child-friendly space. Their eyes beamed as they talked about their hopes and dreams. Albeit shy, the girls were not hesitant to say they want to become a doctor, a teacher or a lawyer someday.
I also met some women and mothers and learned that majority of them were married when they were still children. Later that day, I found myself troubled by the thought that very possibly, some of the girls I met may not see their dreams become reality because they could be married off at any time.
Back in their home country, many more children are facing the harshest threats to their well-being because of the war. For many families living in conflict, child marriage can be a desperate response to protect girls from heightened vulnerability to poverty and insecurity.
The statistics are shocking:
- 32,000 girls are married each day
- In Niger, 41% are in extreme poverty and there is a 76% rate of child marriages
- 13,000,000 more child marriages are likely because of the coronavirus pandemic
Basic services & child marriage
Child marriage is a serious violation of human rights and yet, it said that 12 million girls globally are married before they turn 18 – that’s more than 32,000 girls married each day! The highest rates of child marriage are found in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Sadly, data suggest that the poorest countries suffering the worst level of access to basic services like health, water and education also have the highest rates of child marriage. Take Niger for instance – Niger sits at the bottom of 189 countries in the Human Development Index ranking and is also the country with the highest rate of child marriage at 76%. About 9.5 million or 41% of the population in Niger live in extreme poverty and struggle with the lack of basic water and sanitation facilities.