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Girls & Women

How 1 app is saving 100s of girls from child marriage

Jessica Lea / DFID UK

Young girls slated to be married around the world can now access an app connected to rescue services.

The app called Girl Power is monitored by nonprofits that intervene on behalf of girls and stop the terrible practice of child marriage. The app was developed by Accenture Labs and the charity Child in Need Institute

Globally, 15 million girls are married each year. 700 million women alive today were married as children. If rates aren’t slowed an estimated 1.2 billion more girls will be doomed to an early marriage by 2050.

When young girls are married off, their educations essentially end. They get pulled from school and are consigned to a life of domestic labor. Child brides are more likely to endure domestic abuse and live in poverty. Child brides are also more likely to die, or incur severe health complications, during childbirth.

Ultimately, child marriages perpetuate gender inequality and poverty.

Allowing girls to mature into adulthood before they decide if they want to marry is beneficial to the girl and the community she lives in. Girls who have control over their bodies and future go on to make great contributions to society.

The app, Girl Power, works by giving community activists and teachers tablets or Android phones that they use to register girls in villages. Through the app, they record information about each girl’s health, nutrition, safety status and education. 

The profiles are analyzed and regularly updated to provide insights to the advisor who can observe trends. If at-risk signs are detected, the advisors go to the girl’s home and attempt to mend the situation by explaining how harmful child marriage is and then encouraging alternatives.

This simple intervention has already saved more than 200 girls in Bangladesh and India where the app has been rolled out. Including a recent example where a 15 year old girl was saved from having to marry a much older man.

The family had made the arrangements and was bent on following through until an advisor intervened to explain the dangers of the decision. After some convincing, the family canceled the wedding and agreed to let their daughter reach 18 before other marriage plans were discussed.

Child marriage continues largely because of cultural inertia. In many cultures, girls and women are spurned and forced to live subjugated lives. Often, when girls manage to avoid child marriage and go on to demonstrate their potential, the harmful effects of child marriage are exposed and people begin to abandon it.

Outside interventions can hasten the transition to greater gender equality, but this shift ultimately depends upon the communities involved believing that girls deserve to have control over their lives.   

Girl Power ultimately hopes to rescue 7,000 girls from 100 villages, according to Huffington Post.

Each girl that is saved from child marriage is a victory and positively impacts society. With millions of girls at risk of child marriage every year, technologies like Girl Power will be essential for scaling up intervention efforts.