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16 November 2021 - Story

How is child marriage impacting girls in Latin America and the Caribbean?

Within the framework of the International Day of the Girl Child, a webinar was held on "Addressing child marriage and early unions in LAC from adolescents and youth" in order to generate a space for dialogue between adolescents, young people and decision-makers about the impact of education in preventing and eradicating child marriages and early unions in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Olivia Henderson, Technical Advisor on Gender Violence, took part in the discussion on behalf of Save the Children. Here are some key points about her speech:

Child marriage is a harmful practice that disproportionately affects girls. It has profound and life-changing impacts, including poor education, health and economic outcomes, as well as increased risk of experiencing GBV, child and maternal mortality and intergenerational poverty.

In LAC, one in four women between 20 and 24 years old was married or in an early union before 18. The rate of child marriage and early unions in LAC hasn't changed much in 25 years. If this rate remain unchanged, it is predicted that LAC will have the second-highest regional rate of child marriage by 2030, behind Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Child marriage is a form of gender-based violence. It is deeply rooted in gender inequality and discrimination. The intersection of gender inequality and low socioeconomic status is often a strong driver of child marriage, as families in need may use it as a coping mechanism to relieve their financial burden. 

We know that child marriage is both a cause and consequence of interrupted education. Girls who drop out of school are more likely to get married early, and girls who marry early are more likely to drop out of school.

To make child marriage a less attractive option, improvements in access to education and educational achievement must go hand in hand with increased opportunities for formal and skilled employment for girls and well.

Some strategies to combat child marriage may include: 1) Ensuring that women and girls are consulted and assumee meaningful leadership and decision-making roles. 2) Develop community campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of girls' education. 3) Address gender inequality in the school curriculum. 4) Guarantee comprehensive sexual and reproductive education. 5) Consider offering subjects that involve practical and relevant professional training. 6) Empower girls to exercise their rights through training, skills, information, provision of safe spaces and support networks. Review and promote changes in national laws and policies that allow child marriage.

At Save the Children, we believe that girls are part of the solution. We need to make room for girls to use their power effectively, speak out, take control of their future, participate in making decisions that affect them, and become leaders in this process of change.