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New multi-country initiative will protect millions of girls from child marriage – UNICEF/UNFPA

2016-03-08

NEW YORK/TORONTO, March 8, 2016 – A new multi-country initiative to accelerate action to end child marriage will help protect the rights of millions of the world’s most vulnerable girls, UNICEF and UNFPA said on International Women’s Day.

The UNFPA-UNICEF Global Program to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage announced today will involve families, communities, governments and young people. This is part of a global effort to prevent girls from marrying too young and to support those already married as girls in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East where child marriage rates are high.

“Choosing when and whom to marry is one of life’s most important decisions. Child marriage denies millions of girls this choice each year,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. “As part of this global program, we will work with governments of countries with a high prevalence of child marriage to uphold the rights of adolescent girls, so that girls can reach their potential and countries can attain their social and economic development goals.”

The new global program will focus on five proven strategies, including increasing girls’ access to education, educating parents and communities on the dangers of child marriage, increasing economic support to families, and strengthening and enforcing laws that establish 18 as the minimum age of marriage.

“The world has awakened to the damage child marriage causes to individual girls, to their future children, and to their societies,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.  “This new global program will help drive action to reach the girls at greatest risk – and help more girls and young women realize their right to dictate their own destinies. This is critical now because if current trends continue, the number of girls and women married as children will reach nearly one billion by 2030 – one billion childhoods lost, one billion futures blighted.” 

Child marriage is a violation of the rights of girls and women. Girls who are married as children are more likely to be out of school, suffer domestic violence, contract HIV/AIDS and die due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Child marriage also hurts economies and leads to intergenerational cycles of poverty.

The global community demonstrated strong commitment to end child marriage by including a target on eliminating it and other harmful practices in the Sustainable Development Goals. UNICEF and UNFPA call on governments and partner organizations to support the new Global Program to help eliminate child marriage by 2030.

The UNFPA-UNICEF Global Program to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage is being supported by Canada, the European Union, Italy, Netherlands, and the UK.

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Download multimedia material here: http://uni.cf/1R1p80u

About UNFPA

UNFPA is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled. UNFPA works in over 150 countries and territories to expand the possibilities for women and young people to lead healthy and productive lives. For more information about UNFPA and its work visit: www.unfpa.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca. For updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit unicef.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.