UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage

Through the Global Programme, adolescent girls are gaining key skills and learning about their rights. © UNFPA India/Arvind Jodna

The challenge

The girls at greatest risk of early marriage are often those hardest to reach. They come from poor families, marginalized groups or rural areas. They are also more likely to be out of school than their unmarried peers, robbed of the opportunity to thrive and fulfil their potential. Child marriage can lead to further isolation from family, friends and communities, and threaten girls’ livelihood and health.

In 2016, UNFPA, together with UNICEF, launched a global programme to tackle child marriage in 12 of the most high-prevalence or high-burden countries: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia.

Girls in Mozambique enjoy a safe space to discuss their challenges and find support. © UNFPA Mozambique 

The solution

Global momentum towards ending child marriage has never been stronger, with several resolutions by the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council urging countries to increase investments in eliminating the practice.

The UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage promotes the rights of adolescent girls to avert marriage and pregnancy, and enables them to achieve their aspirations through education and alternative pathways. The Global Programme supports households in demonstrating positive attitudes, empowers girls to direct their own futures, and strengthens the services that allow them to do so. It also addresses the underlying conditions that sustain child marriage, advocating for laws and policies that protect girls' rights while highlighting the importance of using robust data to inform such policies.

The Global Programme is generously supported by the Governments of Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the European Union, as well as Zonta International.

Some notable results from 2017 show:

  • In Bangladesh, some 68,000 adolescents received counselling and gender-responsive health services thanks to 70 newly established health service centres within existing public facilities.
  • In Ghana, the National Strategic Framework on Ending Child Marriage, the Adolescent Pregnancy Strategy and the Government’s Free Senior High School Policy strengthened the environment for protecting girls’ rights.
  • In Uganda, 27,000 adolescent girls strengthened critical skills through school clubs and Go Back to School campaigns, as well as life-skills and financial literacy training. This enabled them to understand their rights and make informed decisions.
  • In Yemen, 100,000 community members, leaders and religious imams learned about the benefits of delaying marriage and keeping adolescent girls in school through awareness-raising sessions.

At 16, Salia thought she would be a child bride. Instead, she learned how to support herself and stand up for her rights. © UNFPA Ethiopia/Abraham Gelaw

The Global Programme holistically works to achieve results for girls by bringing together the sectors for education, child protection, communication for development, gender, health – including sexual and reproductive health – and water and sanitation. Leveraging partnerships to produce scalable and meaningful change, the Global Programme builds the capacities of governments and non-government organizations while engaging with civil society – including faith-based organizations, academia, the private sector and members of the global network Girls Not Brides – for more harmonized action and accountability.

Learn more by connecting with us on Twitter or Instagram, or by signing up for the Global Programme newsletter.

Stories about the Global Programme

Ms. Asibazuyo described hairdressing as the "magic" skill that helped her overcome trauma and earn a living. © UNICEF/Adriko
For Irene Asibazuyo, hairdressing is the "magic" skill that helped her overcome trauma and earn a living.
14 October 2019
Ms. Gebray wants to continue her education until the day comes when she freely decides to marry. © UNFPA Ethiopia/Abraham Gelaw
A recent arrest in Ethiopia underscores the importance of the Joint UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action...
11 October 2019
The path forward will not be easy, says Tadelech Ermias, who bravely refused to undergo FGM. © UNFPA Ethiopia/Abraham Gelaw
“We’re needing to speed up,” said UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem at a high-level event.
15 March 2019


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