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Child Marriage

Young girl with baby

Ending child marriage

Child marriage is a formal marriage or informal union that takes place before the age of 18. It also describes a marriage that takes place without the free or valid consent of one or both of the partners and involves either physical or emotional pressure. 

Child marriage can involve both boys and girls, but the impact on girls is much greater. 

Child marriage is a violation of human rights that robs girls of their childhood. Child brides are forced to drop out of school, have children before they’re ready and are often subjected to a life of violence and abuse.

41,000 girlsare forced into marriage every day

Some as young as 8 or 9 years old

70,000 girlsdie in labour every year because their bodies aren't ready for childbirth

14 year old Sadia

Forced to become a bride at 14

When I was officially a married woman, I cried.

Sadia had to leave school when she was just 14, and was forced to get married. Then she fell pregnant – and discovered her life and that of her unborn baby were at risk.


Our Work to End Child Marriage

582 child marriagesstopped through our children’s forums in Bangladesh

564 girls in Egypt were taught about their right to choose if, who and when they marry

Child marriage bannedin Malawi and Guatemala thanks to our advocacy work

We’ve been working with communities to end child marriage for over a decade. Our work includes:

  • influencing marriage laws through advocacy and lobbying
  • empowering young people to advocate and campaign against it
  • providing safe spaces and support networks for girls at risk of child marriage
  • helping families understand the consequences of child marriage by working with communities
  • working with communities to make sure that girls are valued
  • supporting girls to stay in school and finding sources of financial support to help families pay for their daughters’ school costs.

For our successful campaign to change the constitution and end child marriage in Malawi, we received the Big Impact Award in the Third Sector Awards 2017. We asked young advocates and campaigners in Malawi to speak to you directly, putting their voices and experiences at the centre of our campaign.

The Wedding Busters

Meet the Wedding Busters - a group of Bangladeshi children, supported by Plan International, who have successfully stopped 226 child marriages in their community to date.

Support our work and help us stop more child marriages.

Causes of Child Marriage

Gender Inequality. Women and girls often occupy a lower status in societies as a result of social and cultural traditions, attitudes and beliefs that deny them their rights.

Poverty. In families on a low income, girls may be seen as an economic burden. The perception that girls’ potential to earn an income is comparatively poor pushes girls out of their homes and into marriage. 

Customs. In many countries the importance of preserving family ‘honour’ and girls’ virginity is such that parents push their daughters into marriage well before they are ready. People believe marriage safeguards against ‘immoral’ or ‘inappropriate behaviour’.

Failure to enforce laws. Sometimes families aren’t even aware they’re breaking the law. In some countries early marriage is so prevalent, prosecutions are seldom brought.

Conflicts, disasters and emergencies. Disasters and emergencies increase economic pressures on households and many families that wouldn’t previously have considered early marriage turn to it as a last resort.

Lack of education . Girls with no education are three times more likely to be married before the age of 18 than those with secondary education.

The Role of Education

Ending forced marriage requires a major shift in attitudes and beliefs. Legislation alone can’t achieve this and must be supported with extensive educational and community outreach programmes.

Educating girls. Girls have to be made aware of their rights and understand that forced marriage will negatively affect their future. In countries where forced marriage legislation exists, girls need to know about it and who to contact if they’re feeling pressured to marry.

Educating parents. Parents in developing nations often allow or practise forced marriage because they have traditional beliefs about gender roles and because they’re unaware they’re breaking the law.

Educating community leaders. Individuals who have important roles in communities set examples for everyone else. If they endorse forced marriage then people will continue to accept it as normal. We work closely with community role models to help change beliefs.

Help us end Child Marriage

Help Us End Child Marriage

Are You at Risk of Child Marriage?

If you’re at risk or have been affected by child marriage call the Karma Nirvana helpline on 0800 5999247