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Child Brides

One Solution: Education

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Child marriage remains a fact of life for millions of girls in Southern Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. The root causes of child marriage are complex and a variety of socioeconomic factors play a role. Poverty, cultural norms, lack of economic opportunities and lack of access to education are all strongly associated with early marriage.

Mamta in School In recent decades, the rate of child marriage, while still high, has begun to decline. Part of the decline is due to community-based strategies to delay or prevent early marriage. Of these, educating girls emerges as one of the most important. Countries with low levels of education for girls have corresponding high rates of child marriage. The International Center for Research on Women reports that girls with eight or more years of schooling are less likely to marry early than girls with zero to three years of education.

Secondary education has been shown to be most important for reducing the prevalence of early marriage. But experts emphasize that access to primary education is also important. Overall, education increases girls' socioeconomic status and earning potential. Education stokes girls' imaginations and leads them to develop personal and professional aspirations. It also gives them the skills to negotiate whom and when they will marry. It can provide one of the few places outside the home where girls are allowed to interact with their peers.

"Child marriage occurs when there are few other options—when parents see no viable future for their daughter apart from her traditionally prescribed role in the family. Education provides alternatives. Education can lead to employment, to earnings, to an economic future worth investing in—for the sake of the daughter, for the sake of the family, for the sake of the community."
Margaret Green, director, Population and Social Transitions, International Center for Research on Women
Because school is not free in many areas that have high rates of child marriage, some programs offer scholarships to individual girls. There are a number of programs that may ease the financial burden of schooling on a family. These programs may provide subsidies for school supplies or uniforms, or even pay families to allow their daughters to attend school.

Uneducated girls are at a high risk of becoming marginalized economically and politically. Educating girls delivers benefits to an entire community through increased economic productivity, better health and later marriage. The United Nations, in its Millennium Development Goals, set a target of eliminating the gender disparity in primary and secondary education. The world missed the UN's initial 2005 target to achieve this goal, but awareness of the importance of girls' education and support for funding it is growing.

More Resources on Education and Child Marriage

World Education: Using education as a strategy for transforming the lives of girls and women, World Education works in 40 countries in Africa, Asia and the United States.

Basic Education Coalition: Advocates for quality basic education around the world.

Girls Learn International: Promotes access to quality education for all girls by pairing chapters of American high school girls with partner classrooms in countries where girls have traditionally been denied education.

United Nations Girls' Education Initiative: Works to ensure that by 2015, boys and girls will have equal access to all levels of education.

Listen to Maria Hinojosa's interview with humanitarian Greg Mortenson about his efforts to educate children, particularly girls, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

International Center for Research on Women: How to End Child Marriage (PDF)