For many children the realities of childhood are far removed from the idyllic notion of play, learning and development. This is particularly true for girls who experience early marriage.

Around the world about 14 million girls under the age of 18 marry each year. Although the practice tends to be more prevalent in developing countries it also happens in European nations such as Turkey.

These facts about early marriage highlight some of the areas for concern:

  • In the developing world one in every nine girls is married before she reaches 15
  • Some countries such as Niger and Mali have rates of early marriage in excess of 70 per cent
  • Many countries, such as Gabon, have a legal age of marriage of 18 for boys but 15 for girls

The consequences of early marriage for girls are only negative and include:

  • Illiteracy. The majority of girls who enter into early marriage have either had no schooling or have had it interrupted. This results in high rates of illiteracy making the girls unable to work and totally reliant on their husband for everything. A mother’s educational achievement has a much greater impact on their children than the father’s so this begins a cycle of poor education that can persist for generations.
  • Greater Risk Of Death In Childbirth. When a girl is subject to early marriage she is more likely to have children before her body is properly ready for it. In countries where child marriage rates are high there are high rates of maternal mortality and infant mortality. Pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death in girls aged 15-19 in the poorest countries.
  • Higher Rates Of Sexual Infection. Girls who are part of an early marriage are at much higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. They have neither the education nor the power to ensure that safe sex practices are followed. Because their husband will be much older he is at more risk of carrying STIs. Many STIs affect general health, increase mortality and damage fertility.
  • Increased Levels Of Abuse. Research has shown that women who enter into early marriage are more likely to be beaten and sexually abused by their husbands. Due to a lack of education they are also much more likely to believe that their husbands have a right to abuse them.

Because early marriage is a complex issue with a multitude of contributing factors including poverty, gender discrimination and deeply entrenched traditions, tackling it isn’t an easy thing.

You can help by contributing to a charity that tackles this problem head on. Your money will help fund projects such as:

  • Protection schemes
  • Increasing educational opportunities for girls
  • Educational initiatives to change attitudes in communities
  • Petitions and lobbying of governments to make institutional changes that outlaw early marriage

It won’t be an easy task but thanks to a lot of hard work things are beginning to change for the better, though there is still much to be done.

To find out more about early marriage and what you can do to help visit Plan UK’s website

This Post Was Contributed by Guest Blogger, Holly Hudson