The Ford Foundation has announced a five-year, $25 million commitment to help end child marriage — a practice that annually afflicts the lives of ten million girls around the world — within a generation.
Working with nongovernmental organizations, governments, other funders, and local communities, the foundation will award grants to organizations working to generate community-based practices that reduce the incidence of child marriage; research, evaluate, and test interventions and new ways to engage with local governments, community advocates, religious leaders, and the media about this issue; and expand adolescents' opportunities, with a focus on rural areas. Grant awards also will support efforts to coordinate policy dialogues, advocacy events, and networking opportunities and build a political consensus around the ending of the practice.
The initiative, which builds on a $3 million investment by the foundation in 2011 that focused on interventions in India, Nigeria, Egypt, Central America, and southern and West Africa, will work to connect local efforts around the world and accelerate a global movement for change as part of the human rights and development agendas. "For the first time in memory, there is the beginning of momentum, the beginning of hope, not just to make progress on this issue, but to end child marriage in a generation," said Ford Foundation president Luis Ubiñas. "With other foundations, the United Nations, corporations, advocacy groups, and governments, we've moved beyond talk to the beginnings of building a movement to address child marriage head-on."
According to Girls Not Brides, girls under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their twenties, while those between the ages of 15 and 18 are twice as likely. Child brides also are more likely to drop out of school, thus missing out on education and economic opportunities that could help lift their families out of poverty. This week, the United Nations Population Fund, in partnership with the UN International Day of the Girl Child, will release Marrying Too Young: End Child Marriage, a report which urges decision makers to focus on the protection of girls' human rights and to end the practice of child marriage now.
"Our ability to tackle the central issues affecting women and families in developing countries — from reproductive health and education to ending poverty and increasing opportunity — begins with the end of child marriage," said Ubiñas. "How many of the two billion people living in deep poverty in the world are these girls, the women they become, and their children?"