“Child brides are some of the world’s most isolated people. We are delighted that the work of Girls Not Brides and its members to give these girls a voice and to empower those vulnerable to child marriage has been recognised by Women Deliver,” said Marianna Brungs, Coordinator of Girls Not Brides, as the new global partnership to end child marriage was recognised as one of the “most inspiring ideas and solutions delivering for girls and women.”
Working collectively to raise awareness of child marriage
It is estimated that ten million girls a year marry before the age of 18, with devastating consequences for their health and well-being. Yet why is it that few people are aware of their plight?
Sadly, child brides are invisible; they are hard to reach and don’t always benefit from development aid or local support programmes. Child brides tend to drop out of school to stay at home and take care of household chores rather than study. They also lack awareness about the services that are in place to support them, such as family planning. Even if they are aware, it can be difficult to assert their own wishes and needs to their often much older husbands.
The invisibility of child brides is one reason why child marriage has long been absent from the international agenda, despite the fact that we cannot hope to achieve six of the eight Millennium Development Goals unless we address the practice. Girls Not Brides members believe it’s time for that to change: “Girls Not Brides is a movement whose time has come,” says Rema Nanda of Pathfinder International, a member of the Partnership.
By bringing together more than 100 organisations from over 30 countries – a membership that is growing rapidly – Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage seeks to harness members’ knowledge and experience to raise awareness about the impact of early marriage on the life of girls. The Partnership looks to work collectively, calling on global leaders to implement policies, provide funding and speak out about the practice, shattering the silence that has long prevented action against child marriage.
Sharing experience and learning from each other
There is no single solution that will end child marriage. It will require action at all levels – from the grassroots groups working with communities to encourage a change in attitudes, to the large non-governmental organisations pushing for policy action at national and international levels. By coordinating their efforts, Girls Not Brides members show that there is a growing global movement of people determined to see an end to the practice.
Girls Not Brides also provides an opportunity for members to share experience and learn from each other: What are the proven interventions that empower girls and help to reduce early marriage? What can members learn from programmes in other countries or communities that might work in their own? What has and what hasn’t worked in efforts to raise awareness among communities about the harmful impact of child marriage?
Tackling child marriage will not be easy; addressing such sensitive issues can be difficult and lonely work. Until now, grassroots organisations have felt that they have acted in isolation, working alone to gradually change long-held beliefs that marrying off a girl early is in her best interests or that those who question child marriage seek to challenge a community’s way of life.
By coming together in partnership, Girls Not Brides seeks strength in unity: “Being part of a global partnership lets us know that other people are out there,” said one participant at a recent regional meeting of Girls Not Brides members in South Asia. “It feels like we are not alone.”
Members of Girls Not Brides are united by a commitment to end child marriage and enable girls to fulfil their potential. Through their own work, they have seen that change is possible and by working together and learning from each other, they are convinced this can happen on a global scale. As Zainab Azmat, a Girls Not Brides member from Pakistan describes, it is a network seeking to “cover a maximum area with maximum change.”
We’ve started a movement – join us.
Find out more about Girls Not Brides at www.GirlsNotBrides.org
Follow them on Twitter @GirlsNotBrides or at Facebook.com/GirlsNotBrides
If you are part of an organisation interested in joining Girls Not Brides, we’d love to hear from you at info@GirlsNotBrides.org.