Image of three women and one man smiling for a photo Photo Credit: Association des Volontaires pour la Réconciliation et le Développement des Pays des Grands-Lacs

Association des Volontaires pour la Réconciliation et le Développement des Pays des Grands-Lacs

The Democratic Republic of Congo has the 9th highest number of child brides in the world.

Olive is 17 years old and already a mother of two children. “I was married when I was 13. My parents insisted that a girl has to marry before the age of 15.”

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), almost 2 in 5 girls marry as children. Lack of education, poverty and community beliefs all pressure girls into early marriage.

“An underage girl does not have the understanding or the maturity needed to willingly agree to marriage. She becomes her husband’s slave, and can no longer develop physically or intellectually”, shares Godelive Kunga, a police commissioner in DRC.

Godelive has seen the devastating impact that high dropout rates and early marriage has had on girls in her country. “The trivialisation of underage marriage facilitates the illiteracy of a whole generation of women.”

AVRD-PGL was created to change this trajectory. The organization provides scholarships designed to keep girls in school and out of marriage. Through these scholarships, girls receive individual coaching to strengthen their leadership skills, grow their confidence and increase their agency.

“Girls should be studying for as long as possible in order to represent women and govern alongside men,” adds Bernadette Kindumba, who works in local government and wants to see more women in leadership positions.

In addition to helping girls stay in school and prepare them to lead, AVRD-PGL conducts trainings and discussions with parents, educators and community leaders around girls’ rights and the economic benefits of a girl’s education.

Community conversations are an important step to changing the social and gender norms that lead girls into early marriage and a cycle of poverty. VOW supports organizations across the DRC that are facilitating these necessary discussions and running these vital programs.

“I didn’t know child marriage would cause so many problems for me and my future. Now I share my experience with others, warning them about the difficulties of being married before 18,” says Olive.

100% of the funds we raise are invested in underfunded local efforts in communities around the world that advance girls’ rights.