First UN International Day of the Girl Child: Joining forces to prevent early marriage
11 OCTOBER 2012 | GENEVA -
United Nations Event
UN Calls for End to Child Marriage
11 OCTOBER 2012 | UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK - The United Nations marked the first International Day of the Girl Child by calling for an end to child marriage, and stressing education as one of the best strategies for protecting girls against this harmful practice. “Education for girls is one of the best strategies for protecting girls against child marriage,”Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day. “When they are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, girls can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families.”
“Let us do our part to let girls be girls, not brides,” he stated, urging governments, community and religious leaders, civil society, the private sector, and families – especially men and boys – to promote the rights of girls. The International Day of the Girl Child was designated as 11 October by a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2011, to recognize girls’ rights and highlight the unique challenges girls face worldwide. The theme of this year’s observance is ‘Ending Child Marriage.’
Approximately 70 million young women today were married before age 18, according to a new UN Report, which notes that child marriage denies a girl her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk of being a victim of violence and abuse, and jeopardizes her health. Girls with low levels of schooling are more likely to be married early, and child marriage has been shown to almost always end a girl’s education, the world body adds. Conversely, girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as children, making education one of the most effective ways of combating child marriage. If current trends continue, the number of girl child marriages will increase dramatically over the next 10 years, according to Marrying too Young: End Child Marriage, a new report released today by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). It also finds that, despite laws to prevent its practice, child marriage has remained mostly constant in developing countries in the past decade.
The report calls on governments and leaders to end child marriage by: enacting and enforcing national laws that raise the age of marriage to 18, for both girls and boys; using data to identify and target geographic “hotspots,” which have high numbers of girls at risk of child marriage; expanding prevention programmes that empower girls at risk of child marriage and address the root causes underlying the practice; and mitigating the harmful impact of child marriage on girls. “A girl should have the right to choose whom she marries and when,” UNFPA’s Executive Director, Babatunde Osotimehin, said at the launch at UN Headquarters in New York, adding that the report is “a clarion call to decision-makers, to parents, to communities and to the world to end the unacceptable practice of child marriage now.” Numerous events are taking place around the globe on the theme of the Day, including a parliamentary debate in Malawi on child marriage and special debates on television and radio in South Sudan. In Uganda, SMS technology is being used by young people to discuss child marriage
Among the events taking place at UN Headquarters is a high-level panel, featuring Archbishop Desmond Tutu and representatives from UNFPA, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). In addition, a photo exhibition entitled “Too Young to Wed” was inaugurated.