Be empowered to achieve the highest levels of autonomy
And experience equal treatment on the basis of sex.
Every year twelve million girls around the world are married before the age of 18 despite the numerous national and international laws condemning child, early and forced marriage. These young brides are at greater risk of child and maternal mortality, sexual and reproductive health problems, physical violence and mental health issues. Some of these child brides may also become widows before they are 18 years old and find themselves destitute and stigmatized. Marrying at a young age often means dropping out of school and thus further restricting their employment and life opportunities.
Relevant scientific literature and UN reports suggest that legislation alone cannot bring about the social changes necessary to end the practice of child marriage, and more research is greatly needed to better understand the social and cultural norms which continue to uphold and engender such practices. Leading this effort to end child marriage are women who have experienced firsthand violations of their human rights because of harmful beliefs and practices. Such injustices led Mohinder Watson to found Action on Child, Early and Forced Marriage (ACE&FM), drawing on her personal experiences and culture to shed a light on the insular communities which often perpetuate these practices.
To bring about true change we must work on a grass roots and community level to end all forms of violence against women and girls. As Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
Mohinder Watson, PhD, MPH, Founder of Action on Child, Early and Forced Marriage is an academic and researcher on child, early and forced marriage across the world, a public health professional and a social activist who draws on her personal experiences to advocate for change and help end child marriage.