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Girls Not Brides

Girls Not Brides
Elder: Mary Robinson

Girls Not Brides is a new global partnership committed to ending the harmful traditional practice of child marriage. Initiated by The Elders, Girls Not Brides brings together more than 50 organisations from around the world including the World YWCA, who are currently working to tackle child marriage at the grassroots, national and global levels. As a movement, the World YWCA is committed to promoting women, young women and girl’s rights and fully supports the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It is estimated that some 10 millions girls across Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe are married every year before they reach the age of 18, some as young as 6 or 7 years old.  Child marriage is a violation of basic human rights as articulated through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 16 “Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses”. Child marriage violates girls’ basic rights to health, education, security and choice about when and whom they marry.

Child marriage is a major challenge to development as well as human rights. Highlighting this point, Elder Mary Robinson said “This is a grave human rights issue but it’s also a development issue. How can you improve girls’ education when they are taken out of school to be married, how can you reduce maternal or child mortality when girls are giving birth at twelve or thirteen, how can you reduce poverty when child marriage perpetuates poverty”.  As a movement, the World YWCA works towards eliminating the practice of child marriage by challenging the harmful attitudes and traditions of local communities and their religious leaders in regions where many YWCA member associations are located . Furthermore, the World YWCA works in partnership with grassroots groups to advocate and influence local governments to make changes within the law and society, to ensure that women, young women and girls can exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights and lead a life free from violence. Reinforcing this notion, Elder Mary Robinson commented, “Change happens through protecting girls’ rights in law and practice, empowering them to take control of their own bodies and destinies; and to even become leaders and change makers themselves. Change happens by raising community awareness of the dangers of child marriage and the benefits of stopping this practice”.

Goal 2 of the World YWCA Strategic Framework 2012-2015: The social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights of women, young women and girls are promoted and protected through advocacy, programmes and services; encompasses the action of influencing institutions and policies at global, regional and national level on priority issues in partnership with others. The World YWCA shall therefore participate and engage in both the up-coming 51st session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) held in Geneva, Switzerland and the UN 56TH Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held in New York, USA, thus creating a platform to progress the World YWCA Strategic Framework 2012-2015 and the vision of Girls Not Brides.

Girls Not Brides is a global partnership of organisations working to end child marriage worldwide. In some communities women’s social standing is defined first and foremost in terms of marriage and bearing children. Child marriage is seen as a key rite of passage and a girl’s moment to fulfil her role in life. Gender inequality also means that women and girls are often seen as second class citizens, and denied the right to make their own decisions about their future. Girls Not Brides, aims to give a voice to girls at risk of child marriage, to defend their rights to health and education, and to give them the opportunities they need to fulfil their potential.


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