The “Economic Impacts of Child Marriage” project (funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the Global Partnership for Education are a few of many projects whose goals were to abolish child marriages. These movements were apart of a three-year research project led by the World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women.
A Global Research Project
The research project explored the impacts of child marriage in fertility and population growth, educational attainment and learning, labor force participation, decision-making and investments, health, nutrition and violence. Through this project’s research, the organization concluded that ending the practice of child marriage could save the global economy trillions of dollars between now and 2030.
Poverty-ridden families offering their daughters as child brides is a common means at eliminating certain living costs. Once a daughter is sent away for marriage, there is one less person to feed, clothe and educate; moreover, a dowry or “bride price” is often welcome income for these poor families. However, younger girls are often the chosen demographic for this practice since the older a girl gets, the more expensive the dowry becomes.
Issues with the Practice of Child Brides
One of the main problems with this practice is its invocation of an endless cycle of poverty. Younger girls married away for money often do not get the chance to continue their education; this occurrence severely limits the opportunities of economic growth for both her immediate and newly extended family.
Child brides also have to perform a great deal of unpaid work in the home, such as cleaning, cooking and caring for their husbands, in-laws and children. However, not marrying early and staying in school often leads to a girl becoming healthier and wealthier. In fact, an extra year of primary education for girls also can boost their future earnings by 15 percent.
Consequences of Premature Marriage for Child Brides
There are several severe consequences of child brides who are married off prematurely. Girls who get married early often have to break off previous relationships after marriage and cannot maintain connections with people outside of their families. Isolation can cause severe psychological consequences for both mothers and their babies.
There are also the strains the life of a wife can take on such a young girl’s body. Specifically, early child-bearing is a common incident that risks both young girls’ and their babies’ lives. According to the World Health Organization, the most frequent cause of death in young women aged 15 to 18 is complications during pregnancy and birth.
The non-governmental organization Girls Not Brides has also found “when a mother is under 20, her child is 50 percent more likely to be stillborn or die within its first weeks of life than a baby born to an older mother.”
The International Costs of Child Brides
The World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women has estimated that by 2030 child marriage will ironically cost developing countries trillions in dollars. These organizations push for an end of child brides as a means to alleviate immediate poverty and produce long-lasting economic growth.
The World Bank notes that ending child marriages would have a strong positive effect on the educational levels of girls and their children as well as increase women’s expected earnings. In addition, household welfare, substantial reductions in population growth over time and reduction in rates of under-five mortality and delayed physical development were found.
All in all, the marriage of child brides is a practice that should be abandoned for it numerous economic, personal and societal costs.
– Richard Zarrilli