Young girls who don’t attend school run a higher risk of entering a child marriage, according to new research released in a statement on Oct. 11 on the International Day of the Girl by the organization Save the Children.
The study conducted in Niger, shows child marriage — the marriage of a child under the age of 18 — is the main reason young women drop out of school in low-income countries. The practice is currently more common in Niger than anywhere else in the world, according to Save the Children.
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"Parents often feel that marrying off their daughters will protect them from harm or the stigma associated with having a relationship or becoming pregnant outside of marriage," the Save the Children statement said.
But in reality, their safety is often put in jeopardy. Child brides who miss out on an education are also more likely to experience an early pregnancy, malnourishment, domestic violence, and pregnancy complications.
What is one of the most powerful ways to help #EndChildMarriage? Keeping girls in school! When #girls stay in school, they are empowered, marry as adults & have the opportunity to achieve their dreams! #DayoftheGirlpic.twitter.com/oWzxRGNXQf— SC Campaigns (@SC_Campaigns) October 11, 2018
The form of gender discrimination that prevents young women from having autonomy over their lives occurs disproportionately in developing countries, including Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, and Brazil. While marriage is illegal under the age of 18 in 88% of countries, it’s still allowed with parental consent and continues to be a problem in places like the US.
There are about 700 million women around the world who were married as girls, UNICEF reported in 2017. At this rate, it’s looking like 134 million girls will get married between 2018 and 2030, according to Save the Children’s research. As many as 10 million girls will marry in 2030, and more than 2 million of them will be under the age of 13.
Read More: Child Marriage: Everything You Need to Know
With the help of world leaders, the United Nations is determined to put an end to child marriage by 2030 as part of its Sustainable Global Goals (SDGs). Save the Children found that, at this point, there isn’t a single developing country slated to meet the deadline, the Economic Times reports.
Providing young girls with equal opportunity to learn not only gives them an opportunity to support themselves — it triggers a chain reaction for global development. According to Girls Not Brides, an organization committed to ending child marriage, stopping the oppressive tradition will help achieve at least eight of the SDGs.