Child & forced marriage

Child & forced marriage

Child marriage refers to any formal or informal marriage of a child, female or male under 18 years of age, but it disproportionately affects girls.

Child marriage has long-term consequences on girls, including social isolation, domestic violence and complications in childbirth – as a result of a child’s underdeveloped body. Child brides also have a higher risk of contracting HIV. In low-income countries, maternal-related complications are the leading causes of death amongst girls aged 15 to 19 years (Girls Not Brides).

Child marriage is widely recognised as a violation of a child’s human rights and is prohibited by international law. It continues to deprive girls of their basic and equal rights to health, education and development.

Did you know? In 1998, FORWARD and five global partners founded ‘The Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls’, which advocates for child marriage to be placed on global and national agendas as a human rights abuse.

In numbers

  • 700m

    Women worldwide were child brides (Girls Not Brides, 2016)

  • 150m

    Girls will become child brides by 2030, If more is not done to prevent this for happening!

Our approach

Child brides as ‘Agents of Change’

FORWARD works closely with national and community-based organisations, local authorities, traditional leaders, law enforcement and UN-agencies in Sub-Saharan Africa, where child marriage is still a common practice. Our research shows that FGM tends to be a precursor to child marriage, this makes our approach, which addresses multiple forms of violence against women and children, an important step to achieving long-lasting change.

We develop programmes and initiatives with our partners to support child brides and change the attitudes towards child marriage. These include economic empowerment and training, maternal support, as well as leadership skills and confidence building. A key part of our partnerships work is to create networks and safe spaces for child brides to support each other, grow their networks and become advocates for change.

Watch this short documentary about our ‘Haki ya Binti’ (The Rights of our Daughters) programme in Tanzania.

Our impact

Through our ‘Haki ya Binti’ (The Rights of our Daughters) Tanzania programme:

  • 1,185 girls and young women developed leadership and confidence-building skills
  • 1,752 young women and men have raised awareness of violence against women and girls in their community, and continue to advocate for change
  • 119 professionals, including teachers, healthcare professionals, law enforcement gender desks and community-based organisations have improved awareness of violence against women and girls
  • 113 young women are running their own income generating initiatives

Our Haki Ya Binti programme is funded by Comic Relief, and run in partnership with Children Dignity Forum and Umati in Tanzania.


My family forced me to undergo FGM so that I could be married off. I had to leave school. Then I was married, age 10 to a Kurya man who was older than me.

Margaret, 18,

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