Girls Not Brides Girls Not Brides is an international nonprofit that works to end child marriage around the world. The organization is an initiative founded in 2011 by The Elders, a group of senior statesmen and human rights advocates brought together in 2007 by Nelson Mandela. Girls Not Brides has been working for over a decade to bring the issue of child marriage to the forefront of the government’s attention.

What is Child Marriage?

The term ‘child marriage’ refers to any formal or informal union between a child under the age of 18, and an adult or another child. According to the Girls Not Brides Atlas, the three countries with the highest rates of child marriage as of 2020 are Niger, Central African Republic and Chad. Currently, one in five girls worldwide are married before they are 18, which is a decrease from 10 years ago when one in four girls were victims of the practice. Despite this reduction, the practice still remains very prevalent in certain places. Child marriage can be the result of grave gender inequality, as the frequency of the tradition amongst boys is one sixth of that amongst girls.

Child marriage is also largely driven by poverty, as girls can pose as financial burdens to their families and are married to help relieve fiscal pressure. Girls believe that marriage is the key to securing their futures and sometimes drop out of school before they receive secondary education and begin their lives as wives. In some communities, marriage at a younger age can mean a lower expense. It is customary in different cultures for the girl’s family to ask for money in exchange for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Younger brides tend to go for higher rates, which serves as an incentive for impoverished families to sell their daughters as soon as they can.

The Dangers of Child Marriage

The practice of child marriage has devastating effects on the girls who fall victim. Girls married under the age of 15 are 50% more likely to suffer from domestic violence than those married at a later age. Child marriage can result in girls having sex before they are emotionally and physically ready and is a key driver of adolescent pregnancy, which carries its own health risks. When a girl enters a marriage, she is usually expected to drop out of school and tend to the home and eventually, the children.

If and when girls are ready to return to school, they are faced with barriers such as household responsibilities and a lack of educational and social preparation. In fact, school closures due to the pandemic have exposed 10 million more girls to child marriage as isolation and rising financial instability have driven families to turn to child marriage in order to cope with the economic challenges that came with COVID-19.

How Girls Not Brides is Working to End Child Marriage

Girls Not Brides is working to end child marriage in a multitude of ways. Not only does it work to prevent child marriage, but it also amplifies the voices of current and potential victims. Girls Not Brides strives to bring awareness to the problem by encouraging informed discussions about the topic on local, national, and international levels. As of 2020, Girls Not Brides is made up of more than 1,500 members from 104 countries around the world and has advocated across multiple platforms and top-tier media outlets.

Girls Not Brides offers in-person and online workshops in order to enlighten people on child marriage and educate them in ways they can help. It also mobilizes various political and financial supporters to help further its cause.

A Look Ahead

The nonprofit comprises of 1,400 civil society organizations around the world and works with a range of stakeholders and partners to ensure that its message is being heard. Girls Not Brides is working to end child marriage so that girls everywhere can grow up to reach their full potential, and is bringing light to an issue that is often overlooked but extremely important.

Ava Lombardi 
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Ecuador
Ecuador, a small country in South America, known for its impressive ecological diversity, has made great strides in improving education access for Ecuadorian girls in the past few years.

Still, there are several barriers that prevent many Ecuadorian girls to finish secondary school or make them quit school even earlier.

The top 10 facts about girls’ education in Ecuador presented below are exploring the root causes of this issue, as well as the recent leaps towards progress.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Ecuador

  1. Thirty-one percent of adolescent women in Ecuador do not graduate from secondary school. In indigenous populations, this number is even higher and stands at 44 percent. In Afro-Ecuadorian groups, this number is 42 percent and in the Montubio population, 33 percent. Plan International Ecuador offers scholarships to young women to continue their education, as well as classes to teach parents the importance of their daughters’ education.
  2. In recent years, an estimated 149,572 girls aged from 5 to 17 (about  1 percent of the total population) do not attend school because they are doing domestic work instead. This issue also affects different ethnic groups disproportionately since 13 percent of Montubio girls, 15 percent of Afro-Ecuadorian and 17 percent of indigenous girls are missing school due to domestic work.
  3. Some Ecuadorian families take part in a practice that offers their girls food, lodging or other necessities in exchange for doing domestic work. Cultural and familial expectations prevent the girls from having a choice. In years prior to 2009, The Social Observatory estimated that 718 girls did not attend school because they were doing unpaid domestic work as a part of this type of transaction.
  4. In 2009, 2,083 girls aged 10 to 14 gave birth, while 60,623 births were recorded with mothers aged from 15 to 19. Due to strict legal restrictions on abortions, girls who become pregnant must either give birth or undergo illegal abortions, and the cultural expectation of mothers to assume the majority of parental responsibilities puts young mothers in a position where they are unable to continue their education.
  5. Twenty-two percent of girls in Ecuador are married before they turn 18, despite a Civil Code reform enacted in 2015 that raised the legal age of marriage for girls from 12 to 18. Underaged brides often engage in domestic chores and other marital duties, including premature parenthood, in place of continuing their education. In 2017, two nongovernmental organizations, Let Girls Rise and Girls Not Brides partnered and enacted a plan to advocate for legislative, cultural and social reform to further prevent the marriage of underage girls.
  6. Sexual violence against girls often occurs in schools. In a study conducted by Plan Internacional, it was founded that girls are often sexually abused by their teachers and older students. Ecuador’s education minister has acknowledged the prevalence of sexual violence in schools and the need to combat this issue.
  7. The problems tend to affect women and girls in rural areas more than those who live in urban areas. Fourteen percent of women in rural areas are illiterate, in comparison to 5 percent in inner cities. Rural girls attend school for an average of 7.1 years as opposed to urban girls, who attend school for an average of 10.9 years. In addition to domestic work, rural Ecuadorian women tend to do agricultural work as well. Many rural women are indigenous and face a higher rate of domestic violence.
  8. A staggering 78 percent of Ecuadorian girls are subjected to some form of abuse at home. This discourages girls from attending school by affecting their overall emotional well-being and sense of self-worth. Progressive legislative changes in the past few decades, including the Law against Violence toward Women and the Family (1995) and the rewriting of the constitution in 1998 to include Ecuadorian women’s equal rights in several sections, have been made.
  9. Approximately 2 percent of girls and 4 percent of boys are not enrolled in primary school. Almost 92 percent of girls and 94 percent of boys above the age of 15 are literate. In 2014, nearly 74 percent of girls in Ecuador completed their primary education. In 2015, nearly 42 percent of girls completed secondary school.
  10. There are several nongovernment initiatives working to improve conditions for girls in Ecuador. WE is an organization that contributes to improving girls’ by creating and running girls’ clubs, improving access to water and building and rehabilitating schools in rural areas. Plan International Ecuador hosts workshops for girls that encourages them to envision successful futures for themselves and begin to consider career plans. CENIT is a nonprofit organization that was founded to improve conditions and decrease abuse of girls working in Ecuador and continues to provide integrated educational, vocational, health, social and psychological services.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Ecuador highlight the obstacles that stand between Ecuadorian girls and their education in order to contribute to restructuring oppressive legal and cultural systems that have allowed this problem to persist.

While some of this information can be disheartening, all signs are pointing towards progress for girls and adolescent women Ecuador.

Knowing and sharing these top 10 facts about girls’ education in Ecuador will help increase awareness of these complex issues, as well as the large number of legislators, humanitarian organizations and collective initiatives on the ground that are all paving the way for a future where all Ecuadorian girls will have access to the education and quality of life that they deserve.

– Shannon Mullery
Photo: Flickr

underage marriage
A pressing issue in Iraq without much resistance or counteraction is underage marriage. Out of the total number of marriages in 2013, 11% involved an underage girl, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Planning. Additionally, 25% of girls are married before the age of 18 and 6% are married before the age of 15. Also known as uneven marriages in Iraq, they are controversial because there are multiple motives behind them. While some girls are forced completely against their will, others enter an uneven marriage to lift themselves or their family out of poverty. For instance, there was a recent story of a 16-year-old girl married off to a man over the age of 60 at the request of her father, Abu Ali. His reasoning for this was to benefit his family, which lives in poverty. He had been supporting his five daughters on an income amounting to only $300 per month. Since the family had been suffering and struggling to make ends meet, Ali married off his daughter to help the situation. Ali said of the matter, “Poverty was an important reason that led me to agree to this marriage.” Besides the breach this has on women’s rights, it also contributes to negative health effects for young girls. Often these girls are expected to carry and raise children, but most are simply too young; pregnancy also poses high health threats. There is an increased possibility of miscarriage, internal bleeding and even maternal mortality. These adverse health risks are either ignored or unknown due to disregard for reproductive health for women. Damaging health effects are not the only consequence of underage marriage. Girls who have been married underage often drop out of school early. Girls lacking education have few options and opportunities and are forced to depend on marriage to sustain them. Since girls would be entering the workforce drastically less and would be unable to contribute to the economy, this also stifles human development. This epidemic exist in Iraq and many parts of the Arab region as well as sub-Saharan Africa. A study in June 2013 found that one in seven girls is married in the Arab region before she turns 18. Besides Iraq, underage marriage is most prevalent in Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, calculatedly the poorest countries in the area. In these countries, more than one third of girls are married before they turn 18, which is more than in Iraq. Not only is underage marriage detrimental to the lives involved, it also has consequences for societies on a larger scale. Even though some girls enter these marriages to alleviate poverty, in the long term it does more harm than good as underage marriage promulgates and reinforces a cycle of poverty. This is especially true since it causes girls to stop their schooling, leaving them unable to earn money of their own. Since this problem hinders society and human progress, it is a concern that should be reprioritized. – Danielle Warren Sources: Al-Monitor, Population Reference Bureau

public health crisis
Nepal finds itself in the midst of a public health crisis for a sizable number of its female citizens. The crisis has its roots in poor preventative measures, but it mostly stems from the intolerable gender discrimination that many Nepalese women endure on a daily basis.

For instance, uterine prolapse, a condition that occurs when the uterus falls out of its normal position, is plaguing millions of women in the small nation. This condition is extremely painful and prevents many women from doing basic household duties.

In fact, its ubiquity is staggering: over 10% of 13.4 million women are affected by uterine prolapse.

The condition prevents many women from lifting heavy items which leads many to be ostracized within their own families. Since they are unable to do any intensive physical labor, they are seen as “lazy” by their families and therefore looked down upon.

Unfortunately, uterine prolapse can be traced to even greater gender discrimination pervasive within Nepalese society as a whole. Women generally have no say in when they marry, when to have children and how many children they desire to have. They are also denied basic birth control.

Bearing too many children in a short period of time is heavily associated with early onset of the condition. Generally, uterine prolapse is experienced by older women.

However, because of the lack of choice in having children at an early age, the condition in Nepal has been seen in women in their early 20’s. In a society that treats women as second class citizens, it is hard to imagine the number of avenues women are able to take in order to prevent uterine prolapse.

The government of Nepal has taken notice of the problem and was compelled to address the crisis once the Supreme Court mandated it in 2008. Unfortunately, the government response has been woefully inadequate.

There is a serious dearth of preventative measures in the government’s strategy. The main focus has been providing surgery for those who are already affected by the condition, which has done nothing to ease the discrimination responsible for its prevalence.

The quality of the government’s response to the crisis should not come as a surprise since the government has been in a state of flux since the monarchy was deposed in 2008. Since then, an interim constitution has been created to govern the country.

Political bouts within the government have left many stuck in a cycle of poverty. In fact, over one-quarter of the Nepalese population survives on just $2 per day.

The situation underscores how institutionalized discrimination leads to more than just decreased social stature in one’s society. There may be other examples around the world illustrating the health effects discrimination has on powerless individuals.

Hopefully an effective governing body can be solidified to aid the women of Nepal.

Zachary Lindberg

Sources: Reuters, Amnesty International
Photo: Merlin