Divorced Yemenese Woman
Photograph by Stephanie Sinclair
Follow Up
June 2011
Child Brides

If present trends continue, over the next decade 100 million girls in the developing world will marry before the age of 18. These marriages are often arranged by family members, and the girls may be forced to marry or too young to understand what it means. Child marriage can devastate the lives of girls, their families, and their communities. The following organizations are encouraging families to delay marriage and give girls an opportunity to reach their full potential. They welcome your financial support—an investment in improving the lives of women and girls worldwide.

International Center for Research on Women
The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) is a global research institute whose mission is to empower women, advance gender equality, and fight poverty in the developing world. ICRW conducts research and finds practical ways to reduce global poverty by investing in the lives of women and girls. Collaborating with local partners, ICRW has designed effective programs that work with young people, their families, and their communities to delay marriage. In addition, they use their research evidence to educate national and international policymakers on the need for leadership and action.

Equality Now
Equality Now works for the protection and promotion of human rights for women around the world. Working with human rights organizations and individual activists, Equality Now documents violence and discrimination against women and mobilizes international action to stop human rights abuses. Issues of urgent concern to Equality Now include sexual violence, trafficking of women and girls, female-genital mutilation, discrimination, and the denial of equal access to political participation.

The Veerni Project
The Veerni Project aims to empower and educate girls and women of rural Rajasthan, India, so they can lead healthy and productive lives free of poverty, coercion, and disease. The project provides secondary-school opportunities at the Veerni Academy in Jodhpur as well as programs to bring about change in local communities. In Hindi, Veerni means heroine or woman of strength. The project is guided by the belief that when girls and women are educated and healthy, they will have the strength to create positive changes in their lives.

Tostan's mission is to empower African communities to bring about positive social transformation based on respect for human rights. Tostan’s three-year education program provides information and skills in a supportive setting for adults and adolescents. Participants discuss critical topics and reach out to their social networks, creating consensus around education, health, and other issues. This process has led thousands of communities to publicly declare the abandonment of child marriage and other harmful social practices, such as female-genital cutting.

Berhane Hewan
In the Amhara region of Ethiopia child marriage rates are among world’s highest: Nearly half of all Amharan girls are married before age 15. The UN Population Fund, in partnership with the Population Council and the Ethiopian Ministry of Youth and Sport, introduced the Berhane Hewan project to encourage girls to stay in school. The girls work with community mentors on literacy, life skills, and health and HIV education; they also take part in girls clubs and other community-wide programs. The project is working: More than 12,000 girls are part of the comprehensive initiative, and evaluations show that they are starting to delay marriage, to enter and stay in school, and to understand their own sexual and reproductive health.

Elsa, Sifirash & Friends Soap Cooperative
Also based in Ethiopia, the Elsa, Sifirash & Friends Soap Cooperative is a small-scale vocational-training program started by National Geographic photographer Stephanie Sinclair and her friend Susanne Kreig. The project’s namesake, Elsa, is a former child bride who ran away on her wedding day and was subsequently forced into the sex trade. She is now rebuilding her life with the help of Timret Le Hiwot, a nonprofit organization that strives to eradicate HIV and AIDS in Ethiopia by working with some of the country's most vulnerable citizens, commercial sex workers. Since the soapmaking pilot program began in late 2010, Elsa has received management training and has opened a cooperative, which is now making its first batches of soap.