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Our work to end child marriage

Child marriage in Bangladesh

We’re working with communities around the world to prevent child marriage. This includes pioneering peer-to-peer work in Bangladesh, as well as projects in Niger, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Cameroon and Egypt.

Plan projects provide safe spaces and support networks for girls at risk of child marriage. We also work with communities to help families understand the causes and consequences of child marriage, making sure that girls are valued. We support girls to stay in school and find sources of financial support to help them pay for their daughters’ school costs. Our advocacy and lobbying work with governments around the world helps to protect girls’ rights in law and secures funding for programmes and policies aimed at ending child marriage.

The success of these approaches in countries across the globe is why we believe that together we can end child marriage in a generation, by 2030.

Support our work to end child marriage by 2030 by donating to the Girls Fund today.

Donate to the Girls Fund to help end child marriage

The challenges

Child marriage puts girls at risk of violence, ill-health and social isolation, keeping them locked in poverty. They are denied their rights and denied a voice. In our landmark study of girls' voices, more than two-thirds of girls in Asia and over half of girls in West Africa said they 'never' or 'seldom' control decisions about their marriage.

Child brides are frequently forced to marry much older men, which means they face a higher chance of being infected with STIs such as HIV. They’re also vulnerable to domestic abuse and sexual violence. One of the greatest risks is dying in childbirth, as in many cases their young bodies just aren’t physically ready for giving birth. In fact, pregnancy is the leading cause of death for 15 to 19 year old girls. In the same study cited above, 1 in 3 girls said they never decide if they become pregnant.

Myness-MalawiMyness’ story

In northern Malawi, the practice of marrying off girls under 18 to older men who pay large dowries has been common for many years.

To combat this, Plan has trained and supported communities to set up child protection committees. The committees look out for vulnerable girls, taking action when they are threatened with early marriage. Members also identify girls who have already been forced into marriage, helping them to claim their rights.

Myness, now 15, was rescued from her marriage and resettled back in school. She remembers her experiences vividly.

“It happened when I was only 13 years old. Life was very difficult at home. We could not even afford soap. But there was a man in our village who kept pursuing me to marry him. He promised to take care of me, provide whatever I wanted, and after sitting my exams at school I accepted.

"But life was not any better – my husband was an alcoholic. He never kept any of his promises. I regretted what I’d done – my wish was to continue with education, but by then I was helpless and had no one to support me.” – Myness, Malawi

When Myness’ exam results came out, she had passed with flying colours. She was selected to join one of the best schools in my district, but the young girl was already a wife.

Fortunately, the Child Protection Committee in the village stepped in to help the family. “They promised to contribute part of my school fee and I decided to run away while my husband was absent,” says Myness. “I was afraid and thought he would come looking for me, but I have never seen him. I’m happy I returned to school, even though there may be challenges, and someday I would like to be an accountant,” she adds.

“Recently, two of my school friends were planning to get married, but I discouraged them. I told them my story, and they stopped all the marriage preparations and chose to continue with education.”

In this part of Malawi, Plan has trained and helped local communities establish 30 child protection committees. As well as freeing girls from marriage and helping them go to school, the project is also curbing violence against children.

Help us end early and forced marriage within a generation by donating to our Girls Fund today.

Donate to our Girls Fund to end child marriage

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