U.N. launches initiative to end child marriage for millions of girls

A 16-year-old boy waits to be married to a much younger girl during a mass child marriage ceremony in Indore, Madhya Pradesh (AFP/Getty Images)

To mark International Women’s Day, the two U.N. agencies UNICEF and UNFPA announced they are launching a multi-country initiative designed to protect millions of vulnerable  girls from child marriage. “Choosing when and whom to marry is one of life’s most important decisions. Child marriage denies millions of girls this choice each year,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund in a press release announcing the Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage. “As part of this global programme, we will work with governments of countries with a high prevalence of child marriage to uphold the rights of adolescent girls, so that girls can reach their potential and countries can attain their social and economic development goals.”

Funda, INDIA: Indian youth Sharadha Prasad (L) and his bride to be Kumla Baiof (R) take part with others in a mass wedding ceremony in the village of Funda, some 30kms from Bhopal, 30 April 2006. Some 50 youths and young women under the age of eighteen were married in the mass ceremony on the occassion of Akshya Tritya". Though the state government of Madhya Pradesh claimed that no child marriages took place on the auspicious occassion of the first day of the marriage season. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Around 50 young men and young women under the age of eighteen marry in a mass ceremony in the village of Funda, near Bhopal. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Their efforts will be focused on 12 countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East where child marriage is rampant, and focus on working with local governments to increase girls’ access to education and health care and strengthen and enforce laws, while also increasing economic support to families and educating parents and communities on the dangers of child marriage. “This is critical now because if current trends continue, the number of girls and women married as children will reach nearly 1 billion by 2030 — 1 billion childhoods lost, 1 billion futures blighted,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

Read the full story at UNICEF.


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