The Elders, a group of global leaders originally convened by Nelson Mandela, has announced the launch of Girls Not Brides, a new global effort to end child marriage, a practice that contributes to core development challenges such as poverty, HIV, educational disparities, maternal and child health issues, and gender inequality.
Announced during the first day of the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson of the Elders, Ford Foundation president Luis Ubi�as, and NoVo Foundation co-chair Jennifer Buffett, the coalition committed to building an organization with at least a hundred and fifty members running programs in twenty countries by December 2012. Coalition members also committed to raising at least $3 million to ensure the sustainability of the effort and seed activities to end child marriage in target countries, while establishing a network of donors to support programs designed to end the practice worldwide.
Although other groups have projects working toward similar goals, the Elders' project is designed to improve awareness of child marriage, which affects millions of children, primarily girls, every year. Indeed, in the developing world one in three girls is married before the age of 18 and one in seven before the age of 15. Such marriages usually mark the end of a girl's schooling, limiting her opportunity to develop skills that can help her earn an income and lift herself and her children out of poverty. It also puts girls at greater risk of disease, injury, and death due to early sexual activity and childbearing.
Women's rights start with protecting girls," said Ubi�as. "It's a very human issue, one at the center of a wide range of challenges girls and women still face. We don't think we can work on reproductive health, women's rights, girls' education, or women's economic empowerment without addressing a widespread and fundamental issue like this one."