The girls at greatest risk of early marriage are often those hardest to reach. They come from poor families, marginalized groups or rural areas. They are also more likely to be out of school than their unmarried peers, robbed of the opportunity to thrive and fulfil their potential. Child marriage can lead to further isolation from family, friends and communities, and threaten girls’ livelihood and health.
In 2016, UNICEF, together with UNFPA, launched a global programme to tackle child marriage in 12 of the most high-prevalence or high-burden countries: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia.
Global momentum towards ending child marriage has never been stronger, with several resolutions by the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council urging countries to increase investments in eliminating the practice.
The UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage promotes the rights of adolescent girls to avert marriage and pregnancy, and enables them to achieve their aspirations through education and alternative pathways. The Global Programme supports households in demonstrating positive attitudes, empowers girls to direct their own futures, and strengthens the services that allow them to do so. It also addresses the underlying conditions that sustain child marriage, advocating for laws and policies that protect girls' rights while highlighting the importance of using robust data to inform such policies.
The Global Programme is generously supported by the Governments of Belgium, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the European Union, as well as Zonta International.
Some notable results from Phase I (2016–2019) of the programme show:
In Ethiopia, close to 490,000 adolescent girls have been members of adolescent clubs, where peer mentors provide them with training and information around sexual and reproductive health, legal services and child marriage reporting mechanisms. As a result, 24,785 child marriages have been cancelled or annulled.
In Bangladesh, a national multimedia campaign for ending child marriage has reached over 190 million people across television, radio and social media, and received national and international awards for contributing towards positive social change.
In Sierra Leone, close to 9,000 adolescent girls who had dropped out of school have been supported to return, by being provided money for school fees, uniforms, books and other supplies.
In Yemen, over 10,000 adolescent girls, including already married girls, have accessed health and protection services, such as medical, legal and psychosocial support and access to shelters.
In Nepal, close to 30,000 adolescent girls have participated in the social and financial skills training package ‘Rupantaran’, with over 65 per cent of the girls showing increased knowledge of and skills to exercise their rights after the training.
The Global Programme achieves results for girls by aligning key players in education, child protection, communication for development, gender, health and other sectors. The Programme builds the capacities of Governments and non-government organizations while engaging with communities and partners for more harmonized action and accountability.
Last modified September 2020