Action on Child, Early and Forced Marriage is a Geneva based international non-profit association dedicated to advancing awareness, research and education on child and forced marriage and related traditional practices through advocating for social change.
A world where every girl can enjoy her childhood, be free from violence or the threat of it, benefit from a good education, have control over her life, and is empowered to achieve the highest levels of autonomy, and is considered equal to men and boys.
Background to Child, Early and Forced Marriage
Every year fifteen million girls in 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 girls who marry very early may also become widows before they are 18 years old and find themselves destitute. Marrying at a young age often means dropping out of school thus restricting their employment and life opportunities.
Scientific literature and UN reports suggest that legislation alone cannot bring about social change and a decline in child marriage, so law enforcement is essential. More research is required to understand better the social norms on which such practices are based. For too long tradition and culture has been used to justify the continuation of such practices, but this can no longer be accepted.
Women have been very active in pressurizing Governments to change such cultural practices, including some who have experienced firsthand violations of their human rights and are therefore best placed to denounce them. Such injustices led to the founding of this Association by Mohinder Watson who has drawn on her personal experiences and culture to shed light on such closed communities and provided insights into why they perpetuate these practices. The experiences of such girls and women are central to any discourse or policy on child, early and forced marriage.
To bring about change we must work at the grass roots and community level to end all forms of violence against women. 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 researching 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 on child marriage.