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Child marriages: 39,000 every day

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Social pressures within a community can lead families to wed young children. For example, some cultures believe marrying girls before they reach puberty will bring blessings on families. Some societies believe that early marriage will protect young girls from sexual attacks and violence and see it as a way to insure that their daughter will not become pregnant out of wedlock and bring dishonour to the family.

Too, many families marry their daughters simply because early marriage is the only option they know.

"Many faith leaders and their communities are already working to end child marriage and other forms of violence against children. Changing stubborn behavior is immensely challenging, so we must go further to positively influence beliefs and actions," says Tim Costello, Chief Executive of World Vision Australia.

Malawi's work to end child marriage

In Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries, at least half of young women are married before the age of 18. The country is working to end the practice "to allow the girl child to continue with education, to become a learned citizen who can contribute to the development and economy of the country," says Mrs. Catherine Gotani Hara, Malawi's Minister of Health.

Another reason for Malawi's effort is the high teenage pregnancy rate and the fact that teen pregnancies contribute to 20-30 percent of maternal deaths in the country. "By ending early marriages we can avert up to 30 percent of maternal deaths and also reduce the neonatal mortality rate," she says.

The Minister reports that Malawi has taken a number of steps aimed at ending the practice of child marriage. These include:

  • Providing free universal access to primary education;

  • Working with chiefs to sensitize their communities on the importance of sending children to school, with an emphasis on the girl child;

  • Implementing a policy that allows girls w

Contact: Marshall Hoffman
Hoffman & Hoffman Worldwide

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