International (MNN) — With COVID-19 creating economic pressure and school closures all around the world, the number of child marriages has surged.
Maggie of World Concern recognizes that while legislation has led to progress, such as the bill recently passed by the Philippine Senate, in many cases it isn’t enough.
“All over the world, one in five girls will be married before their 18th birthday. Unfortunately, one of the things we see is even though countries have laws against early marriage [many] also have exceptions,” she explains. “A legal framework is not enough. Many countries make allowances for early marriages, even within the context of legislation against it.”
The main drivers behind child marriages are poverty and lack of education. Families already struggling to get by often see their daughters as a burden, and studies show a lack of education and child marriage are closely tied.
Because COVID-19 has increased poverty and led to schools being shut down, the number of child marriages has consequently increased.
With this in mind, World Concern is working to combat child marriage.
“For World concern, we see three things that have really given us a lot of hope for how we can intervene and prevent this from happening. The first is education. The longer a girl can stay in school, the less likely she is to be married before the age of 18,” Maggie says.
World Concern provides scholarships to girls in three high-risk countries, allowing them to stay in school. Additionally, World Concern works with families to raise awareness of the importance of education and to provide poverty alleviation.
“We’ve seen all across the world that being able to provide economic opportunities for families [is key],” Maggie says. “When families have opportunities to meet their basic needs, generate income, and save for their family’s future, they keep their children in school.”
Finally, providing girls with vital skills, such as communication, can make a huge difference.
“One of the things that really works is to give [girls] the opportunity to pursue skills. Even just basic literacy courses can make such an impact,” Maggie explains.
“When we are able to increase a girl’s communication skills [and] decision-making skills [so that] they are seen as valuable members of their community, it increases their ability to advocate to delay marriage [and] to make healthy choices for their family.”
How You Can Help
Ultimately, faith informs all the work World Concern and other Christian organizations are doing to help those at risk for child marriages.
“We believe strongly at World Concern that men and women, boys and girls, are both image-bearers of Christ. They share an equal inheritance in God’s grace,” Maggie says.
You can learn more about World Concern’s work and how you can help save girls from early marriage here. As World Concern continues to help these girls and families, Maggie asks for prayer.
“I would really appreciate it if people could join us in prayer about the impact of COVID-19. Pray that God will raise up advocates and leaders in these communities to protect girls from early marriage and join us in thanking God for many of the people where World Concern works that are already doing this,” she says.
“Pray girls will know their value in the eyes of God, [and] that they will be able to pursue decisions that are healthy and create more opportunity for them in the future.”
Header image courtesy of Taylor Jashinky via World Concern