This International Women’s Day, Let’s Work to End Child Marriage

This International Women’s Day, Let’s Work to End Child Marriage

Compassion is working to end the cycles of poverty that lead to child marriage.

It's International Women’s Day and Compassion Australia is shining a light on young girls living in poverty and one of the pressing issues they face: child marriage.

Despite being illegal in most countries, the practice is still widespread and culturally ingrained in many of the poorest communities. According to UNICEF, approximately 1 in 5 girls across the world are married before they turn 18. And poverty is one of the leading drivers.

Compassion Australia CEO Clare Steele said the practise is both harmful and a violation of girls’ rights.

“Child marriage is a form of gender-based violence that not only deprives girls of their childhoods, education and future prospects, but also makes them vulnerable to all forms of violence,” she said.

“Once married, early pregnancy is highly likely even though these girls are not physically or emotionally ready for motherhood. They’re also at a greater risk of experiencing serious complications in pregnancy and childbirth.”

Bangladesh ranks among the top 10 countries with the highest levels of child marriage. A 2020 study by UNICEF found that 51 per cent of young women in Bangladesh were married before they turned 18, and in some poorer regions this figure was over 60 per cent.

Compassion is on the ground in Bangladesh working to break this cycle.

Education is proven to prevent early marriage, with each year of secondary school reducing a girl’s likelihood of marrying before age 18. Yet prolonged closure of schools throughout the COVID-19 pandemic increased the risk of girls dropping out entirely.

The effects of the pandemic and rising prices have also plunged families into deeper levels of poverty. Desperate parents may marry off their daughters to support their families, believing it’s the only way to survive or that their daughter will be better off.

To support the wellbeing and rights of girls, Compassion’s local partners across the world are increasing access for girls and their families to child protection education and discussions around the dangers of early marriage. This runs alongside their holistic child development program and the support they provide families to enable children to attend school and pursue vocational training.

National Director for Bangladesh Christabel Kalaiselvi said, “My greatest hope for every girl in Bangladesh is that they would be able to thrive in life and blossom into young women who can choose their own future and positively influence their communities.”

For three young women in Bangladesh, their local Compassion centre has been transformative:

  • 17-year-old Sadia is nearing the completion of her schooling and is grateful for all the support she’s received as she looks to pursue a nursing career.
  • Rituporna who used to struggle with shyness, has a new-found confidence and forged life-long friendships since joining the program.
  • And for Junia her favourite thing about her local Compassion centre is pretty simple: it gives her the opportunity to hang out with her friends—a simple joy and freedom that every girl should have.

To join the fight for young girls’ futures, consider sponsoring a girl through Compassion Australia this International Women’s Day. Visit for more information.

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