In most areas of Pakistan, the legal age for marriage is 16 years old. Yet, millions of children are a part of marriage contracts prior to reaching this age. Child marriage disproportionately affects Pakistani girls, with UNICEF estimating that in 2022, 4.6 million girls became brides before they reached 15.
Several factors cause child marriage in Pakistan, including patriarchal social norms and economic reasons. Poverty in the nation leads poorer families to marry off their daughters so that they no longer have to economically provide for them.
Child marriage has many negative repercussions for young girls, including an increased risk of being in an abusive marriage, falling pregnant before being physically prepared for childbirth and not being able to complete their studies. F
5 Organizations Ending Child Marriage in Pakistan
- Blue Veins: Blue Veins is a charity based in Pakistan which is operating since 1999. Since its creation, its mission has been to better the lives of women, children and transgender people through social change. Ending child marriage in Pakistan is among the charity’s highest priorities. Through its Power to Girls campaign, it has worked to make this goal a reality. The campaign involves creating public awareness of the dangers and realities of child marriage and encouraging policymakers to develop legislation that will protect children from being coerced into marriage contracts before reaching the legal age.
- United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA): The UNFPA is an agency responsible for improving women’s reproductive health worldwide. Its work in Pakistan involves empowering women through developing health care and ending child marriage. The UNFPA collaborates with multiple organizations to safeguard children’s rights and support them against being pressured into underage marriage. It researches and advocates for protective legislation and it provides reproductive health guidance and services to girls across the nation. The agency also supports child brides in Pakistan who cannot exit their marriages by providing them with health care and reproductive education. Additionally, it offers counseling services to survivors of underage marriages to aid their mental well-being.
- Girls Not Brides: Girls Not Brides is an international NGO made up of more than 1,600 organizations that share the mutual goal of ending child marriage globally.
Its work focuses on developing local change. For example, it holds interventions with local and religious leaders in rural communities in Pakistan to educate them on the negative impacts of child marriage on girls and to inspire them to put a stop to the practice within their communities. It also commits to equipping girls with the confidence to refuse marriage at a young age. Girls Not Brides has created safe space programs which provide girls with life skills and the chance to access economic independence through cash transfers.
- Save the Children: Founded in 1919, Save the Children is an international charity that aims to alleviate the struggles that children living in poverty face. This involves working to end child marriage in nations where the practice is commonplace, including Pakistan. Save the Children believes that the most effective way to end child marriage as a practice is to champion education for girls and equip them with life skills that will enable them to reject marriage offers at a young age.
- Bedari: Bedari is a Pakistan-based NGO that focuses on protecting women’s and children’s rights. Female Pakistani professionals who believed that women and girls living in abusive households lacked the support they needed to be able to escape founded the organization in 1991. The founders of Bedari aimed to create an organization dedicated to helping women in violent domestic situations. Since the organization’s inception, it has extended its work to preventing child marriage in Pakistan. Bedari partners with donors to carry out programs designed to put a stop to child marriage. For example, Bedari worked with the Commonwealth of Learning, Canada, to create the GIRLS Inspire project. This project operated in the Punjab region of Pakistan and aimed to raise awareness among communities about the negative impact of child marriage. The organization achieved this through theatre performances and education sessions for parents and local leaders to encourage them to eradicate the practice. It also offered self-growth sessions for girls to inspire them to stand up for their rights.
Child marriage in Pakistan remains an issue affecting millions of young girls. The consequences of underage marriage for girls include a deterioration of physical and mental health and a lack of economic and personal freedom. On the bright side, there are charities that publically highlight the dark reality of child marriage in Pakistan. And these organizations continue making efforts to put an end to the practice.
– Mohsina Alam