Last March, Compassion UK asked us to imagine what it’d be like if every child in the UK was taken out of school tomorrow and forced to marry. That’s equivalent to 10 million children, and it’s the reality facing children around the world.
Child marriage—marriage before the age of 18, including informal unions—is an injustice and a human rights violation. Yet, despite being illegal in many countries, it remains widespread. And it’s getting worse.
The sad reality is that more than 100 million girls were expected to become child brides in the next decade, with a further 10 million more girls at risk as a direct result of the pandemic. Now, with global inflation and food scarcity in many countries, this figure may be set to rise still further. The harrowing truth is that girls under 18 who marry are more likely to leave school, experience domestic violence, and die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth.
To raise awareness, Compassion collaborated with four teenage activists; Tisha, aged 14, from Bangladesh; Lauri, aged 13, from the Dominican Republic; Mart, aged 13, from Ethiopia; and Yolane, aged 14, from Brazil. Each of the girls featured are not at risk of early marriage but advocate against the harmful practice prevalent in each of their home countries. Many have friends or family affected by this issue and have chosen to speak out.
Fracieli, 13, from the Dominican Republic, knows all too well the toll child marriage can take, “There are so many girls that are married where I live. I don’t want that, either for me or any other girl. Girls shouldn’t get married so young. I have a 13-year-old friend who has already lost a child. Another one is 17, and she has two children already. They are so young!” The situation facing millions of girls is desperate. But it’s not definite. We asked you to come alongside Compassion as we called to Stop The Weddings.
And you responded!
In response to the news that the highest marriage rate amongst those under 15 years old is found in Bangladesh, we asked you to donate to a child marriage project run by Compassion in Bangladesh. Thanks to your generosity, in January 2023, enough was raised to fund the project fully. The £57,000 in funding will be used to train 80 Compassion staff and 144 parents and caregivers of Compassion assisted children to deliver community-based workshops on the dangers and disadvantages of child marriage.
Workshops will be delivered over the space of a year to more than 8,500 household members across 36 Compassion projects, with all resources provided. Liza Halder, Child Protection Specialist for Compassion International Bangladesh, says, “Thanks so much for supporting the initiative. We are grateful for your tremendous advocacy. Please keep us in your prayers since we will move soon for implementation.”
The Compassion sponsorship programme already provides girls in Bangladesh with a good education, skills, encouragement, and social support. Thanks to donations to Compassion’s child marriage prevention project, the wider community can help protect young girls’ futures further.