23.07.2014 - UNESCO Office in Brasilia

Women’s education helps avert child marriage

This week, a Girl Summit is being held in London, aimed at rallying efforts to end female genital mutilation and child marriage within a generation. This blog looks at the vital role that education plays in helping reduce child marriages and the child pregnancies that often occur as a result.

Around 2.9 million girls are married by the age of 15 in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, equivalent to one in eight girls in each region, according to estimates in the 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report. These shocking statistics mean millions of girls are robbed of their childhood and denied an education.

Our Report also showed, without a doubt, that ensuring that girls stay in school is one of the most effective ways to prevent child marriage.

Education empowers women to overcome discrimination. Girls and young women who are educated have greater awareness of their rights, and greater confidence and freedom to make decisions that affect their lives.

If all girls completed primary school in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, the number of girls getting married by age 15 would fall by 14%; with secondary education, 64% fewer girls would get married. In Ethiopia, for example, while almost one in three young women with no education were married by the age of 15 in 2011, only 9% were married among women with secondary education.

Those gathering at the Girl Summit being held this week in the UK should take note of the links between literacy and child marriage. The evidence is too strong to ignore: While just 8% of literate girls are married by age 15 in South and West Asia, for example, almost one in four who are not literate are married by this age.

Staying in school longer also gives girls more confidence to make choices that avert the health risks of early births and births in quick succession.

Currently one in seven girls have children before age 17 in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia. In these regions, 10% fewer girls would become pregnant if they all had primary education, and 59% fewer would if they all had secondary education. This would result in around 2 million fewer early births.

The reality confirms the evidence. Click here to read the stories.

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