Sister Aid Promotes Education for Women in India
Sister Aid Promotes Education for Women in India
"Education for girls is one of the best strategies for protecting girls against child marriage."
Learn more about the issue through this interactive presentation by Council on Foreign Relations
YGB "SHE" (Scholarship for Higher Education) Program will empower poor adolescent girls through education of two-year Higher Secondary (high school level) and three-year College, totaling five years. Drop-out rate for girls in higher education is currently 80%, leading to frequent child marriage.
The Education Dilemma
High prevalence rates of child marriage are correlated with less education for girls. A UNICEF study found that across forty-seven countries, girls with primary school education were less likely to be married than girls who had received no education. Another study by the International Center for Research on Women found that girls with no education were up to six times more likely to marry as children than girls who had received secondary education.
|Photo: © 2012 Aklilu Kassaye/World Vision|
Although child marriage is entrenched in some communities, development and human rights advocates are pressing to make investing in girls' futures a policy priority. At stake, experts say, are the rights of girls' to access education; maintain their physical and emotional health; have stable, consensual marriages; and achieve their wage-earning potential, a driver of broader economic growth.
The following is a breakdown of strategies that advocates say can be used at the international, national, and local levels to curb the practice of child marriage.
Access to primary and secondary education is crucial to increasing girls' self-reliance and delaying the age of marriage. Formal schooling can help girls develop thinking and social skills, establish support networks, make informed decisions, and boost income-earning prospects. International agencies can work with local actors to pressure governments to make primary and secondary schooling compulsory, integrate life skills and sexual-health topics into lesson plans, and aid girls' families with school enrollment and financial assistance. Outside formal schooling, a life-skills course in Marathwada, India was shown to raise girls' median age of marriage in the area from sixteen to seventeen in two years.
Community-based programs can shift public attitudes about the roles of women and girls in society. Informational campaigns should initiate conversations among community leaders, men, and parents on the social expectations of marriage, highlighting the negative consequences of child marriage as well as alternatives. Examples include Tostan, a Senegal-based organization working to change social attitudes toward both early marriage and female genital cutting, and a group in Nepal comprising Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim religious leaders in Nepal, sponsored by UN-affiliated organizations, who collaborated on a public education campaign.
Child marriage often amounts to a financial transaction for needy families. To address their needs, development agencies can offer financial assistance or incentives to parents to encourage them to delay their daughters' marriages. Some programs provide direct cash assistance to families on the condition that they invest in their daughters' educations or delay their marriage age to eighteen. One such example is India's Apni Beti Apna Dhan program, which offers bonds to newborn girls that can be redeemed only if they remain unmarried when they turn eighteen.
Expand Maternal and Reproductive Health
Services can also target married girls in need of sexual and reproductive health care. International agencies can support local health advocates and educators in providing girls with maternal care, family planning, and sexual health education, including information on sexually transmitted diseases. These agencies can also collaborate with local medical personnel to improve the quality of and access to maternal care for pregnant girls at risk of childbirth complications.
Minimum-age marriage laws and mechanisms for their enforcement can be introduced or strengthened to uphold a standard against child marriages. These laws can tie into regulations against sexual violence and statutory rape.
Countries can take a strong first step in monitoring by requiring official registration of births and marriages. A registration law passed in Bangladesh in 2004 contributed to an increase in birth registrations from 9.8 percent to 53.6 percent over three years, and girls surveyed there frequently cited this requirement as an effective way to provide proof of age to uphold laws against child marriage.
Improve Data Collection
Data on child marriage remain limited and uneven, particularly for many countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Governments and multilateral organizations can collaborate to improve data collection on early marriage and related factors such as girls' health, age, frequency of childbearing, education, and income contributions. They can also ensure that data is regularly updated and monitor programs and policies designed to prevent child marriage.
Raise Diplomatic Pressure
Because child marriage inhibits economic growth and development, stability, and human rights goals, advocates against the practice say that countries concerned with global development should elevate the issue as a foreign policy priority. Developed countries with a demonstrated commitment to combating child marriage—such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, and Australia—can focus on the practice as a central development problem, rather than a marginal issue, and use diplomatic means to push countries with high prevalence rates to focus on eradicating it. Moreover, they can lend support to countries that are already making efforts to prevent child marriage, such as India and Ethiopia. While highlighting early marriage in strategic discussions on security and development, governments can offer financial and technical assistance, push for initiatives to mitigate the practice, and raise the issue in multilateral forums.