Over the past 18 months, the YWCAs of Ethiopia, India and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have collaborated with their communities to develop new models to support married adolescent girls and protect girls at risk of child, early and forced marriage (CEFM). The programmes helped address girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, provided safe spaces for psycho-social support and peer interactions, and strengthened the girls’ life skills and self-esteem so they could become agents of change on CEFM.

Said one young woman from the DRC who joined the programme as a young single mother: “I was married because I got pregnant. The father did not want to marry me, and left when my son was born…

“I was always focused on my education and now I have graduated successfully. I joined the YWCA of DRC to be a mentor to the other young mothers. It is important that they stay in school and finish their education, so they can support themselves and their children even when men abandon them. With the YWCA, I can inspire them to not give up.”

During the project, all three YWCAs engaged with other community stakeholders who are critical to changing traditional and harmful social norms around CEFM, including parents, community and religious leaders, government representatives and men and boys.

The World YWCA movement has continuously work to be a driving force in claiming human rights and influencing human rights’ policy decisions for women, young women and girls globally at strategic international event for the full realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG5 (Gender Equality). Despite the achievements gained to end child marriage, there are still two thirds of the countries (117) worldwide that allow children to marry. Even in countries that stipulate a minimum age of 18, many have exemptions to the rule. Including men, young men and boys in the conversation has become essential to tackle child marriage.

Said one 17-year old boy from India who was involved in the programme: “I love rapping, but in the past, I was one of those boys standing with the group making up sexist rap songs about girls and teasing them…I still rap but now on violence against women, gender discrimination and women’s empowerment.”

Child marriage not only prevents girls to achieve their full potential, but it also hurts countries’ economies. It damages social and economic development and leads to a cycle of poverty between generations.

More information on CEFM is available here: CEFM Fact Sheet