UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage

Through the Global Programme, adolescent girls are gaining key skills and learning about their rights. © UNFPA India/Arvind Jodna

The challenge

The girls at greatest risk of early marriage are often those hardest to reach. They come from poor families, marginalized groups or rural areas. They are also more likely to be out of school than their unmarried peers, robbed of the opportunity to thrive and fulfil their potential. Child marriage can lead to further isolation from family, friends and communities, and threaten girls’ livelihood and health.

In 2016, UNFPA, together with UNICEF, launched a global programme to tackle child marriage in 12 of the most high-prevalence or high-burden countries: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia.

The solution

Global momentum towards ending child marriage has never been stronger, with several resolutions by the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council urging countries to increase investments in eliminating the practice.

Girls in Mozambique enjoy a safe space to discuss their challenges and find support. © UNFPA Mozambique 

The UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage promotes the rights of adolescent girls to avert marriage and pregnancy, and enables them to achieve their aspirations through education and alternative pathways. The Global Programme supports households in demonstrating positive attitudes, empowers girls to direct their own futures, and strengthens the services that allow them to do so. It also addresses the underlying conditions that sustain child marriage, advocating for laws and policies that protect girls' rights while highlighting the importance of using robust data to inform such policies.

The Global Programme is generously supported by the Governments of Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the European Union, as well as Zonta International.

A review of work from 2016 through 2019 found that the Global Programme had:

  • Empowered 7.2 million adolescent girls
  • Supported education for 500,000 adolescent girls
  • Reached 4.2 million individuals with community dialogue
  • Reached 31 million individuals with media campaigns
  • Helped 24,000 facilities implement adolescent girl-friendly health and protection services
  • Helped 22,000 schools strengthen adolescent girl-friendly education
  • Helped 11 countries create child marriage national action plans
  • Partnered with 107 youth-led groups and 88 women’s rights organizations
At 16, Salia thought she would be a child bride. Instead, she learned how to support herself and stand up for her rights. © UNFPA Ethiopia/Abraham Gelaw

The Global Programme holistically works to achieve results for girls by bringing together the sectors for education, child protection, communication for development, gender, health – including sexual and reproductive health – and water and sanitation. Leveraging partnerships to produce scalable and meaningful change, the Global Programme builds the capacities of governments and non-government organizations while engaging with civil society – including faith-based organizations, academia, the private sector and members of the global network Girls Not Brides – for more harmonized action and accountability.

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