Helen Jones MBE, Director of Youth Affairs and Education Programmes at The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS), explores the role of education in preventing child marriage and highlights the part played by the RCS and its partners in building momentum to get the issue onto the agenda of the formal Commonwealth.
In the time it takes to read this opening paragraph, another three girls in the Commonwealth will have been married or entered into union before their 18th birthday. That’s 1,000 girls every hour; 24,000 girls every day; and approximately 8.8 million women married as children annually.
These numbers matter deeply – the lives of too many Commonwealth girls married as children are frequently short, blighted, or unfulfilled and the practice helps to perpetuate poverty across the generations and impedes development.
Those arresting statistics, calculated from UNICEF 2014 global data sets, underpin the RCS Report Preventing Child Marriage in the Commonwealth: the Role of Education. The research report, financially supported by the government of Canada, was published with partner Plan International UK at the Commonwealth Conference of Education Ministers in 2015, and aimed to give continued impetus to the Commonwealth focus on the issue of child marriage, through the lens of education. The report highlighted the strong link between improved education and reduced prevalence of child marriage, and called for the Commonwealth to prioritise achieving inclusive, quality education for all girls and boys and to take more action to keep girls in school.
Fundamentally, girls in the Commonwealth must have the right to be in school and to choose who they marry when they are ready…
Helen Jones MBE
Director of Youth Affairs and Education Programmes at The Royal Commonwealth Society