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Normal is girls
denied equality.

But together, we can #DefyNormal and help end child marriage.

What is child marriage?

Child marriage, or early marriage, is any marriage where at least one of the parties is under 18 years of age. Forced marriages are marriages in which one and/or both parties have not personally expressed their full and free consent to the union. A child marriage is considered to be a form of forced marriage, given that one and/or both parties have not expressed full, free and informed consent.

Child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) is a human rights violation and a harmful practice that disproportionately affects women and girls globally, preventing them from living their lives free from all forms of violence. CEFM threatens the lives and futures of girls and women around the world, robbing them of their agency to make decisions about their lives, disrupting their education, making them more vulnerable to violence, discrimination and abuse, and preventing their full participation in economic, political and social spheres.

Source: OHCHR

If nothing changes, by 2050, the number of women married as children could reach 1.2 billion.

Girls with no education are 3x as likely to marry by age 18 as those with a secondary or higher education.

Child marriage increases the risk of experiencing violence, abuse and forced sexual relations and pregnancy.

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among 15 to 19 year-old girls globally.

5 surprising reasons why child marriage happens

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Reason 1: Legal loopholes and parental consent
Families living in poverty often see marriage as a way to ensure their daughters will be taken care of and provided for.
Reason 2: Lack of birth registration
Many girls still go unregistered at birth, unable to prove their true age.
Reason 3: Climate change
For farming families in countries such as Malawi, climate change is having a devastating impact on crop yields; forcing parents to marry their daughters due to poverty.
Reason 4: Menstruation
A girl’s first period can be interpreted as a sign that she is ready for motherhood in many parts of the world. In addition, menstruation can force many girls to drop out of school, increasing their risk of becoming child brides.
Reason 5: Conflict, war and civil unrest
Displacement, instability, and subsequent poverty lead families to choose child marriage for their daughters in times of conflict either to protect them from potential violence or to alleviate financial stress.

Meet 3 girls who survived child marriage



Latifa was in the 6th grade when she was married to a 35-year-old man. She experienced physical and sexual violence and gave birth to a girl. Latifa’s husband kicked her out one day and she was forced out on the streets with her new baby. Now, her daughter is growing and Latifa is determined to keep her in school.

Read Latifa’s first person account



At 14, Sharina dropped out of school and was married to a boy she had never met before. After a few months together, they started to develop a friendship. When Sharina became pregnant she was very ill but her husband was supportive. They have a daughter and are determined to never marry her without her consent and always prioritize her education.

Read Sharina’s first person account



Dorothy dropped out of school and got married as a teenager. During her married life, she didn’t have access to food or money and was mistreated by her husband. Eventually, she left and at seventeen, Dorothy became a single mother. Now she encourages girls in her community to stay in school.

Read her full story

What is Plan International doing?

Because child, early or forced marriage (CEFM) stems from unequal power relations between women and girls and men and boys, Plan International Canada’s programs transform gender relations by encouraging boys and girls and women and men to enjoy power with each other, rather than power over each other. We focus on changing not just the social conditions in which women and girls live, but their social positions to address issues like CEFM at their very root causes.

We apply this approach through activities like:

  • Advocacy

  • Education

  • Establish and facilitate safe spaces and clubs

Plan International works in partnership with governments and other organizations to help end child marriage around the world. For more in-depth content on CEFM, please visit:

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Stand with us to #DefyNormal.