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Giving girls their childhoods back: the campaign to end child marriage

Our client The Elders this week announced a new global partnership to end child marriage, Girls Not Brides, at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York. The partnership, spearheaded by The Elders, brings together over 50 organisations working to tackle child marriage all around the world. Its aim is ambitious: to end child marriage within a generation.

Child marriage has been a badly neglected problem, often overlooked or seen as too sensitive to touch by policymakers and media. Yet the statistics are, as The Elders’ chair Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, “shattering”.

Every year, 10 million girls worldwide become child brides. That’s more than 25,000 girls every day, or 19 every minute. These girls are young and unprepared for sex and childbirth. By becoming child brides, their health and their lives are put at risk. Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. Their babies are also more likely to die.

Child brides are some of the world’s most vulnerable and isolated people. Some are just eight or nine years old.  The Elders, a group of influential elder statesmen and women who include Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson, hope to make the voices of these child brides heard much more widely, by bringing their own years of experience and their moral authority to bear.

It’s a culturally sensitive area; child marriage is often perpetuated by traditional norms. But The Elders are determined that now is the time to speak out. They hope that Girls Not Brides can put global leaders and grassroots communities worldwide “on the right side of history”, as Archbishop Tutu toldGuardian Global Development yesterday.

Digital campaigning is going to be key to mobilising global opinion on this vital issue. Portland is proud to have worked with The Elders to create the Girls Not Brides website. It provides data on child marriage, updates on activities and provides a platform for girl brides to tell their own stories. Girls Not Brides is building momentum too on Twitter, as @GirlsNotBrides and under the hashtag #childmarriage.

Yesterday, Archbishop Tutu tweeted: “I’m going to be as committed to ending #childmarriage as I was to ending apartheid.”

With such powerful advocacy behind it, this initiative should be capable of achieving massive momentum.

By ending child marriage now, we can give millions of girls their childhoods back.

Sophie Middlemiss is a Senior Account Manager in Portland’s International tea

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