Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney, and Melinda French Gates recently visited Malawi and South Africa announcing to the BBC their aim to end child marriage within a generation, through a collaboration between their foundations.
They met girls affected by the issue, including Lucy, who resisted her father’s wishes to marry an older man at 14 – and so escaped forced marriage as a child, which is recognized as a form of modern slavery.
Instead Lucy became the first girl in her village to go to university and now supports other girls in Malawi vulnerable to being coerced into marriage, to stay in education.
Slow progress of a global issue
Child marriage persists all over the world. More than 650 million girls and women alive today are married under 18, and more than 12 million girls a year are added to that number as they marry in legal and traditional ceremonies. Even when legal barriers exist, cultural barriers make change difficult. According to the U.N., at the current rate of progress, it will take 300 years to eradicate child marriage around the world.
“It is an issue that can be solved tomorrow. If all the world leaders got together and made it a priority, it wouldn’t take 300 years. It could happen in less than a generation.” – Michelle Obama
The younger a child is, the less control they have to give their free consent to marriage and the more vulnerable they may be to slavery.