Child marriage prevents girls from
living lives they love

Smiling girl with braids and a pink shirt in the Dominican Republic
Photo Credit: Ed Kashi/Talking Eyes Media

What is child marriage?

Child marriage includes any marriage or informal union where one person is under the age of 18. Most of these unions impact girls and are not rooted in love or choice.

How big of an issue is child marriage?

According to UNICEF, 720 million women alive today were married as children, as compared to 156 million men.

Why does child marriage happen?

Child marriage happens because of rampant gender inequality — girls’ lives are not valued the same as boys’ lives. It’s a global problem spanning countries, cultures, and religions. Within communities, the specific reasons child marriages happen vary but often include: local social norms that continue the practice generation after generation, families struggling with poverty and looking for options for their children, girls lacking educational opportunities, and natural disasters and events stemming from climate change that disrupt families’ lives.

The Child Marriage Crisis

How are girls impacted?

Child marriage affects girls’ overall well-being, including:

Her Education


A girl who marries early is often made to drop out of school, preventing her from receiving an education and the benefits and options that education provides in her life.

Her Health


A girl who marries early is more likely to give birth before her body is ready, presenting complications that will jeopardize her health for the rest of her life.

Her Ability to Earn Money


A girl who marries early does not receive the job opportunities that help lift her and her family out of poverty.

Her Personal Safety


A girl who marries early is more at risk of sexual, physical, and psychological violence.

Her Legal Rights


A girl who becomes a child bride often lacks the same legal rights that married adults do, including the right to a divorce.

What Effect Does COVID-19 Have on Child Marriage?

The global pandemic has led to a reported increase in child marriages around the globe. When families struggle financially, and girls are locked out of educational opportunities, child marriage increases. UNICEF is forecasting that the pandemic will lead to an additional 10 million child marriages over the coming decade.

How Do We End Child Marriage?

There isn’t one single solution. We support various locally-led solutions, including:

Keeping Girls
in School

Job
Training

Creating
Leadership Clubs

Providing
Health Services

Advocating for
Girls’ Rights

VOW’S APPROACH

We believe locally-led solutions are the only way to end the global child marriage crisis, which is why we fund grassroots efforts to support every girl to own her future.