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child marriage

We’re working with girls, their families and communities to end child marriage around the world. 

child marriage

We’re working with girls, their families and communities to end child marriage around the world. 

Every year, over 12 million girls around the world are married before the age of 18. While child marriage affects all children, the impact on girls is much greater. Girls growing up in poverty or facing crisis, conflict or disaster are more at risk.

Child marriage violates girls’ human rights and robs them of their childhood. Girls who marry before they turn 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence. They’re also less likely to stay in school. They may be forced to have children before they choose to, or their bodies are ready to.

We work with communities where child marriage happens to help make it stop. Girls learn about their rights through our work and how to make their voices heard. And families learn about the risks of child marriage, and girls value beyond just a bride. 


girls marry before their 18th birthday each year.


of women aged 20 to 24 today were married as children.


is how many years it will take to end child marriage at the current rate of progress.

What is child marriage?

What is child marriage?

Child marriage is either a formal marriage or informal union that takes place before one or both people involved are 18. It's sometimes called early and forced marriage, too.  
It also describes a marriage that takes place without the free or valid consent of one or both partners and involves either physical or emotional pressure.

Are you at risk of child marriage?

If you’re at risk or have been affected by child marriage, you can call the Karma Nirvana helpline on 0800 5999 247 or visit their website.

What causes child marriage?

What causes child marriage?

  • Gender inequality: girls and women often have lower status than boys and men. Social and cultural traditions, attitudes and beliefs deny them their rights.    
  • Poverty: in low-income families, girls may be seen as a financial burden. The incorrect idea that a girl cannot earn as much money as a boy or man pushes girls out of their homes and into marriage. 
  • Lack of education: girls with no education are more likely to be married before the age of 18 than those with a secondary education. 
  • Customs: the importance of preserving family ‘honour’ and girls’ virginity in some countries means parents push their daughters into marriage before they’re ready. People believe marriage safeguards against ‘immoral’ or ‘inappropriate’ behaviour. 
  • Failure to enforce laws: sometimes families aren’t aware they’re breaking the law by taking part in child marriage. In some countries, early marriage is so common that it is very rare for any legal cases to be brought forward. 
  • Conflicts, crises and emergencies: humanitarian crises and emergencies increase financial pressures on households. Many families who wouldn’t have thought of early marriage before turn to it as a last resort. 
Monalisa, 15, looking into the distance in Bangladesh
“I strongly opposed the wedding,” says 15-year-old Monalisa who made local headlines in Bangladesh stopping her forced marriage.

"I strongly opposed the wedding"

Monalisa, 15, overheard her parents arranging a marriage for her in Bangladesh: 

"I strongly opposed the wedding and told my parents that I did not want to risk my life by getting married early.

"I wanted to fulfil my dream of completing my education.”

Monalisa warned her parents that they would be breaking the law if they forced her to get married.

Eventually, they accepted her decision. Monalisa's determination even made local headlines.

We work with girls like Monalisa to end child marriage for good. 

Communities leading change

Communities leading change

“I wanted to help other girls”

Debritu, 16, stopped her own marriage in Ethiopia with support from Plan International and now helps other girls do the same: 
“My father secretly decided to make me marry someone. I was crying and stressed. I met with my friend Zewditu. She told me about the My Choice for My Life project.  
“When I explained my situation to the staff there, they assured me that they could handle it without any harm coming to me. Then, my case was reported to the police.

“My parents instantly changed their minds after hearing the police chief's order. I was relieved.

“After that experience, I gained confidence and I wanted to help other girls in the community facing forced marriages.  
“I tell them to refuse it and report it to the authorities. It is their life.”  

Debritu, 16, standing outside in a village in Ethiopia
Debritu, 16, stopped her own marriage in Ethiopia and now helps others do the same.
Abeba holding documents highlighting the consequences of child marriage
Abeba raises awareness in Ethiopia about the harmful consequences of child marriage.

"The number of girls dropping out of school is falling"

Abeba works for the Bureau of Women and Social Affairs in the region where the My Choice for My Life project is running: 
“As the cultural practice of child marriage is so embedded, changing the community’s mindset is difficult.  

“Some people insult us when we speak about the problem of early marriage. The My Choice for My Life project supports us in our efforts to raise awareness.  

“With the help of the initiative, several training sessions on gender equality and ending child marriage were provided for elders, religious institutions, and other social groups. 

“These have altered community attitudes significantly. The number of girls dropping out of school is falling compared to previously.” 

How do we end child marriage?

How do we end child marriage?

Around the world, people like Debritu and Abeba are standing up against early, forced and child marriage. We stand with them.

Some of the ways we work together to end child marriage include:

  • educating girls about their rights and what to do if they are pressured to marry 
  • empowering young people to advocate and campaign against child marriage 
  • providing safe spaces and support networks for girls at risk 
  • helping families understand the consequences of child marriage 
  • working with communities to identify harmful beliefs and make sure girls are valued 
  • influencing marriage laws through advocacy and lobbying 
  • supporting girls to stay in school and finding sources of financial support to help families pay for their daughters’ school costs. 
Adiana, 13, holding an education pack about child marriage, distributed by Plan International
Adiana, 13, is a peer educator tackling child marriage at her school in Indonesia.

"The work we do is slowly paying off” 

Ending child marriage requires a big shift in attitudes and beliefs. That’s why education is so important – for girls, for parents and for communities.  
Girls like 13-year-old Adiana in Indonesia are leading this change. Adiana became a peer educator through training offered by Plan International. Now she helps students in her school learn about key issues. 
"The most important things I convey are about the negative consequences of child marriage and looking after your reproductive health," says Adiana.  
“Although being a peer educator is hard, the work we are doing is slowly paying off.” 
The number of students dropping out of school to marry early has decreased significantly since the start of the project. All thanks to drive of young people like Adiana.  

Did you know that 1/3 of child brides are in sub-Saharan Africa? 

Meet three women from the region who were forced to marry as a child: Vast, 26, from Zambia, and Bertha, 19, and Dorothy, 21, from Malawi.

How many girls do you think will have become child brides in the time it takes you to watch this video? Press play to find out.

Let's end child marriage

Help girls choose their own futures.