Plan Canada welcomes Canada’s stepped up efforts on child, early and forced marriage
TORONTO, July 4, 2014 – Plan Canada welcomes Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s announcement today of $20 million for programs to address the pervasive, harmful and deadly practice of child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) in six countries. This is an important step towards an effective Canadian initiative to help end this practice that affects 14 million girls around the world, per year, or nearly 39,000 girls every day.
As a child rights organization and champion of girls’ human rights, Plan has been advocating for change to address and end CEFM for several years now. In order to have impact at scale, Canada’s approach to ending child, early and forced marriage must aim to address this practice at multiple levels and build on the gains already made across the countries where Canada works.
This means recognizing reasons why parents give their girls over to marriage and working with families to help them understand that girls, and the communities they live in, are better off if marriage is delayed. It means supporting children and youth themselves who are at risk of early marriage, and promoting prevention through awareness and participation. It means reaching out directly to, and working with, religious and community leaders – including men and boys – to become advocates of ending CEFM within their own communities. With 65 million girls around the world out of school, it also means continuing global efforts to ensure all girls have access to quality education, a proven way to reduce CEFM.
“As a humanitarian organization, working closely with children and families in over 90,000 communities worldwide, we know the drivers of child marriage are deeply-rooted and complex,” says Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO of Plan Canada. “In many cases, the best of intentions are behind child marriages. Some families desperately believe marriage will provide for the basic needs of their girls, or will keep them safe, during times of disaster or violent conflict in their countries. Our efforts need to address legitimate concerns like these that influence families’ decisions.”
In developing countries, one in three girls is married by the time she turns 18, but we are not immune to this harmful practice here. Every year hundreds of young girls and women in Canada enter into forced marriage. Many of these marriages actually take place abroad, out of reach of the Canadian legal system.
CEFM is not only a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but it is also a significant contributor to ongoing poverty and a dangerous health threat. Child brides typically do not attend school or drop out once married. This means they are denied the education that can help them break free of poverty. And the children of these children are less likely to survive infancy or, if they do, to receive much schooling. That perpetuates the poverty cycle.
Internationally, we support the Government’s efforts towards a substantive UN resolution to end child, early and forced marriage by 2015. A clear statement against this practice from the international community gives strength and support to advocates around the world seeking to change policy, practice, behaviour, and attitudes in their own communities, but the work can’t stop there.
Ending this harmful and deadly practice – and violation of girls’ human rights – can happen, if Canada and the world tackles the problem at all levels and in an integrated way. This is key to seeing that good policy translates into life-saving and transformational change on the ground.
About Plan and the Because I am a Girl initiative
Founded in 1937, Plan is one of the world’s oldest and largest international development agencies, working in partnership with millions of people around the world to end global poverty. Not for profit, independent and inclusive of all faiths and cultures, Plan has only one agenda: to improve the lives of children. Because I am a Girl is Plan’s global initiative to end gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls – and everyone around them – out of poverty. Visit plancanada.ca and becauseiamagirl.ca for more information.
Abigail Brown, Senior Media and Public Relations Manager, Plan Canada
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