In our last post, we highlighted the importance of October 11 as a platform to raise awareness and resources to end child marriage and the need for national governments to build upon this momentum and step up.
National leaders, especially in countries where child marriage is most prevalent, have several opportunities to take action and to demonstrate their political commitment to support institutional policies and programs aimed at ending the practice. Last week we described two opportunities: (1) signing the international convention against child marriage and (2) establishing and enforcing the legal age to marry at 18 years.
This week, we call on governments to apply their resources to ensure that child marriage remains a high priority in the next iteration of the global development agenda.
Championing to include child marriage in the post-2015 development agenda – when the Millennium Development Goals expire.
The eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—which range from reducing extreme poverty by half to providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015—form the basis of an agreed-upon “blueprint” for meeting the needs of the world’s poorest and most underserved. In 2000, 189 nations and key development institutions affirmed their pledge to collaborate around these eight goals, and the MDGs have since guided an unprecedented effort to tackle the most pressing development issues.
Considerable progress has been made. Achieving the MDGs, however, remains unfinished business, and key international stakeholders are preparing to draft the next global blueprint for development.
As the time period for the MDGs and other key development agendas expires in the coming years, ending child marriage should be positioned as a high-priority issue in the post-2015 agenda. Supporting such a campaign will help establish consensus around goals, indicators and reporting on progress toward ending child marriage. Benchmarks and mandatory reporting can help drive countries to collect, analyze and report their national data on child marriage. In much the same way that the MDGs have helped countries reduce poverty and HIV, including child marriage in post-2015 development agenda will help jumpstart targeted policies and programmes that prevent child marriages and respond to the needs of already-married children.
In addition to reducing child marriage, ending the practice will help countries achieve at least six of eight development goals: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; and combating HIV/AIDs.
There is a clear incentive for national governments to ensure that ending child marriage is a high-priority item in the post-2015 agenda.
Promising strategies and evidence-based approaches for girls most at risk have been developed and tested, but require more targeted investments. With the full commitment of governments, a world without child marriage can become a reality.
On October 11, UNFPA, The Elders and other international actors called on governments to raise the legal minimum age at marriage to 18; to ensure that girls go to school and attend beyond primary level; to address underlying customs and traditions that perpetuate child marriage; to create viable alternatives and opportunities for girls; and to engage communities in realizing sustainable change.
Now it is time for them to heed the call and to step up. One calendar-day is not enough.