Child marriage highlighted during International Day of the Girl

World Today

Child marriage mothers with babiesPhoto from UNFPA Nepal/Santosh Chhetri

One third of girls in the developing world are married before celebrating their 18th birthday, according to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). Child marriages are one focal point of International Day of the Girl, which is commemorated on October 11.

“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,” the United Nations said.

“One such issue that is standing in the way of girls’ progress is child marriage,” the U.N. said, adding “one in three girls in developing countries (except China) get married before they turn 18.”

ICRW estimates show that if the status quo is maintained, 150 million girls will be married before they turn 18 over the next ten years.

Child marriage is a particular concern and has become a focal point for the international day, in part because pregnancy for girls between 15-19 years old is among the leading causes of death for that age group, according to ICRW. There have also been strong linkages made between poverty levels and child marriages, as girls living in poor households are twice as likely to get married before the age of 18, compared to girls living in higher income households.

According to UNICEF figures, the four countries with the highest percentage of girls getting married before the age of 18, are Niger, Chad, the Central African Republic, and Bangladesh. All four of those countries have either close to, or over, half of their population living under the international poverty line of $1.25 per day.

For example, in Niger, 43.6 percent are living under the international poverty line, Chad has 61.9 percent, Central African Republic has 62.8 percent, and Bangladesh has 43.3 percent living under the international poverty line.


Infographic design by Joshua Barlow.