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Girls & Women

Child marriage: 6 beautiful stories of hope

Today alone, an estimated 39,000 girls will have been married under the age of 18. Most of these girls, some as young as 5, will have had no choice in this decision. They are denied their childhood and the right to health, education and security. When I think about the 5 year old girls I know, it’s unimaginable to think of them being forced to marry 30 year old men. But just because it’s not happening here, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

The causes, and therefore the solutions, vary within different contexts. However a huge amount of effort, both globally and locally, is now being focussed on empowering women and girls, and on changing the behaviours and circumstances that lead to forced child marriage.

Ending child marriage is a top priority for the UK's Department for International Development and is the focus of much of our overseas aid. When reading about child marriage it’s hard not to be appalled and to feel completely helpless. However change can happen and is happening and I feel extremely proud to know that my government are impacting the lives of so many young girls across the world.

So here are 6 short stories from Ethiopia and Zambia where the UK are working with governments and local communities to bring an end to child marriage.

Beauty and Hope

Photo credit: Jessica Lea/Department for International Development

Beauty and Hope are part of a youth campaign group in Zambia supported by Plan International. They learn about rights and responsibilities and meet with other children, government officials and their local communities to explain why early marriage is harmful.


Photo credit: Jessica Lea/Department for International Development

12 year old Suria started going to a DFID funded safe space last year and is part of the Adolescent Girls Empowerment Programme - an empowerment programme that involves weekly girls group meetings with training on health, life skills and financial education, a voucher for health services, and a girl-friendly savings account.


Photo credit: Jessica Lea/Department for International Development

Yalemwork was married when she was just 3 years old but has since become a key advocate for ending child marriage in her community. The UK funded Finote Hiwot programme runs community discussions about early marriage in her village which has resulted in many girls like Yalemwork escaping child marriage.


Photo credit: Jessica Lea/Department for International Development

Taketu was married at 14, which is the average age for marriage where she lives in Ethiopia. She didn’t know the man she was forced to marry until the wedding day. Girl Hub are working in the region with policy makers, donors and partners in the private sector to ensure that girls like Taketu are at the heart of the development agenda in Ethiopia.

Bayush and Friends

Photo credit: Jessica Lea/Department for International Development

Education is one of the strongest factors in whether a girl will be forced into early marriage or not. Thanks to grants made available to targeted households, girls like Bayush and her friends have been able to stay in school and avoid child marriage.


Photo credit: Sheena Ariyapala/Department for International Development

Phillimon is the village headman in Chamuka, Zambia and works with paralegals, traditional chiefs and the Community Crime Prevention Unit to take action on preventing early marriages from taking place in the community.

Here at Global Citizen, we believe that all young people deserve a life free from violence and harmful practices. Add your photo of support and join the biggest ever visual petition to ensure all young people have the right to determine their own future at


Caroline Dollman