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Child Marriage and the SDGs

Child Marriage is a global issue with complex, inter-related causes. It is also a local issue in Sierra Leone where it is still practiced.

What do we mean when we talk about "child marriage"? Child marriage is any formal marriage or informal union where one or both parties are under 18 years of age. It is rooted in gender inequality and is made worse by poverty, lack of education, harmful social norms and practices, and insecurity.


12 Million girls under 18 years old are married every year.

That's 23 girls per minute

or nearly 1 girl is married every 3 seconds.

In Sierra Leone

30% of girls in Sierra Leone are married before their 18th birthday and 9% are married before the age of 15.

Girls who formally marry or cohabit as if married before the age of 18 are more likely to have early pregnancies, experience dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, acquire HIV, and experience domestic violence. Ending child marriage will improve the health of millions of girls, and their children.

When a girl gets married she is often expected to drop out of school to look after the home, children and extended family. For the same reasons – and sometimes because of official school or national policies – it is difficult for married girls, pregnant girls and young mothers to return to school.

When they marry as children, girls miss out on developing the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to make informed decisions, negotiate, access paid employment and live independent lives. With little access to education and economic opportunities, girls and their families are more likely to live in poverty.

Systems that undervalue the contribution and participation of girls and women limit their own possibilities for growth, stability and transformation. (see Girls Not Brides)

In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by all United Nations Member States to end poverty, reduce inequality and build more peaceful, prosperous societies by 2030. And, the SDGs mandate the end of child marriage. Our friends at Girls Not Brides published this video showing the relationship between SDGs and child marriage.

To end child marriage- girls, their families and communities must be engaged in transforming the negative social norms that limit girls’ choices. By working together, we can extend gender equality in the home and in public spaces, so that girls can reach their full potential.

To make these changes, international groups, governments, community, political and faith leaders need to come together. This means ensuring girls and women have access to quality education, sexual and reproductive health care, gender-responsive social protection systems and a fair and equal labor market. (see Girls Not Brides)

This school year, after careful review we've added child marriage to the SGUW Life Skills/Adolescent Health curriculum. We know that child marriage is by definition coercive and inhumane and harms girls' health, education and opportunities. It is a practice based in concepts of gender inequality and it must end. Child marriage is an issue that must be addressed at all levels of Salone society including in the classroom with our strong girls.

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