Girls Not Brides
Ending child marriage globally
During a trip to Ethiopia in early 2011, the Elders learned of the devastating impacts of child marriage and how it perpetuates cycles of poverty and oppression. They met girls as young as 12 who had been married, and heard their stories. Yet despite the vast numbers of girls affected in Ethiopia and beyond, the Elders were shocked to learn that child marriage was almost completely absent from the global agenda.
In response, they organised a meeting to bring people working on the issue together to ask what they could do to help. They told the Elders to speak out, that real change needed to happen at the grassroots, and that a movement was needed. So, in September 2011, The Elders initiated Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage. By 2013, having grown considerably, we became an independent charity.
Girls Not Brides now comprises over 900 member organisations from more than 95 countries, all committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to reach their potential. Every year, 15 million girls are married as children. When a young girl becomes a bride, the consequences are lifelong – for the girl, for her family and for her nation. We share the conviction that every girl has the right to lead the life she chooses, and that by ending child marriage we can achieve a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for all. In line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we believe that 18 should be the minimum age of marriage for girls and boys.
Child marriage cuts across countries, religions and cultures. Not only is child marriage a gross human rights violation, but it also denies girls their right to an education, making them far more vulnerable to a life of poverty, ill-health and abuse. Child brides are forced into sexual activity when their bodies are still developing, and decisions about safe sex and family planning are out of their control.
Our members are based throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas - from Burkina Faso and Nepal, through to Lebanon, the USA, Brazil and everywhere in between. Over 70% of members work at the community level. We believe that we are more effective by working together than by working alone and that ending child marriage cannot succeed without engaging and involving communities.
We specifically work to:
Raise awareness of the harmful impact of child marriage by encouraging open, inclusive and informed discussion at the community, local, national and international levels.
Amplify the voices of girls at risk of child marriage and defending the rights of girls to health, education and the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
Build an understanding of what it will take to end child marriage.
Call for new laws, policies and programmes that will make a difference in the lives of millions of girls.
As well as our amazing members all over the world, we have three global champions and advocates to end child marriage: Elders Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mrs Graca Machel, and rapper and child marriage activist, Sonita Alizadeh.
Over the past six years Girls Not Brides has helped stimulate unprecedented action to end child marriage. New global and regional commitments have been made, for example, child marriage has been included as a global development target (5.3) in the Sustainable Development Goals. Once a taboo subject with little political or public recognition, child marriage is now an issue of international concern. Legal and policy frameworks have been strengthened in many countries, and there are now national strategies in 13 countries with a further 12 countries developing them. The number of new programmes to address child marriage has also grown dramatically and there is new funding.
Much has been achieved since 2011, but there is still so much more to do. Help us continue to build a world where child marriage is a thing of the past: where girls are able to choose when, who and if they marry and where their potential is unleashed.