By UN Women*
There are 1.1 billion girls today, a powerful constituency for shaping a sustainable world that’s better for everyone. They are brimming with talent and creativity. But their dreams and potential are often thwarted by discrimination, violence and lack of equal opportunities. There are glaring gaps in data and knowledge about the specific needs and challenges that girls face.
What gets counted, gets done. The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl Child, on 11 October, “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement”, is a call for action for increased investment in collecting and analyzing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data.
One year into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, improving data on girls and addressing the issues that are holding them back is critical for fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals
One such issue that is standing in the way of girls’ progress is child marriage. The data is daunting—one in three girls in developing countries (except China) get married before they turn 18.
Girls who are child brides miss out on education, are more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence, and bear children before they are physically or emotionally prepared.
The cycle of violence that begins in girlhood, carries over into womanhood and across generations. The 2030 Agenda must address their needs and unlock their potential.
UN Women works around the world to empower women and girls and raise awareness on their rights, advocate for the adoption and implementation of laws and policies that prohibit and prevent child marriage, and mobilize communities against the practice.
On the International Day of the Girl Child, we stand with the global community to support girls’ progress everywhere. Let girls be girls.
Fast Facts on child marriage
- Globally, one in seven adolescent girls aged 15 – 19 are currently married or in union .
- In developing countries (excluding China), one in every three girls is married before reaching age 18. This means the futures of 47,700 girls are derailed every day .
- Girls who are married early often face a cascade of other human rights abuses. They are more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence. They are often pulled out of school to take on domestic responsibilities. They are less able to advocate for themselves and their rights .
- Child marriage is often followed by pregnancy, even if a girl is not yet physically or mentally ready. Every day, over 20,000 girls under age 18 give birth in developing countries—over 7 million a year .
- Educated girls are more likely to delay marriage and pregnancy. With secondary schooling, girls are up to six times less likely to marry as children compared to girls who have little or no education .
- Across the globe, rates of child marriage are highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where around 4 in 10 girls marry before age 18; about one in eight were married or in union before age 15. This is followed by Latin America and the Caribbean and the Middle East and North Africa, where 24 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively, of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married in childhood  .