October 11 is a big day – the first ever International Day of the Girl! There’s been a lot of publicity around the importance of empowering women and girls, and this is an important moment to think bigger picture and maintain the momentum. Here’s an update on why this issue is so important from our friends at CARE.
In many of the world’s poorest countries, girls are more likely to marry before the age of 18 than finish secondary school. In fact, about 25,000 girls become child brides each day. The ripple effects are devastating for the girls and their communities. Child brides are twice as likely to be beaten by their husbands and contract diseases, such as HIV, from these often much-older men. These girls also have a significantly higher risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s. Child marriage drastically reduces the number of girls receiving education in developing countries — ultimately preventing girls and women from lifting themselves and their communities out of poverty.
“Early marriage is most prevalent in communities suffering deep, chronic poverty,” said CARE President and CEO Helene Gayle. “Governments, aid organizations and donors need to deepen their understanding of the link between poverty and early marriage. We also need to work together with community-based organizations to support efforts that empower adolescent girls with access to social and health services, as well as knowledge of their own human rights.”
As young people in the United States, it’s critical that we speak out about the rights of our peers around the world. One immediate step we can take is to urge Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to increase political and financial commitments to end child marriage and support married adolescents.
A big thank you to CARE and all of the organizations promoting the rights of women and girls. And Happy International Day of the Girl!