The United States, along with other governments, advocates, journalists, and girls, is sounding a rallying cry against early and forced marriage.
That's a call that is now sounding in the Western Hemisphere as well, said U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Catherine Russell. "This region," she said, "is behind others around the world in tackling this issue. Parts of the Americas are seeing an increase, not a decline, in early and forced marriage."
Research indicates that this phenomenon does not end on its own. Early and forced marriage can perpetuate poverty and keep girls and any children they have from getting the education they need to succeed. The good news is that the region has laws on the books that address early and forced marriage in many countries, which makes it easier to take the next step and respond to these issues.
Within the Western Hemisphere, the U.S. is working to get at some of the root causes by strengthening justice sectors, supporting survivors of gender-based violence, and raising awareness of women’s rights. The U.S. is working to increase access to education for girls and reaching out to people who have often been marginalized — including indigenous communities and people of African descent.
In Brazil, which has the most child brides in the region, the United States is working with UNICEF to give girls the support they need to reach their full potential. Through this program, adolescent girls are meeting mentors from different professions. They’re learning about entrepreneurship and innovation.
But more needs to be done. "We’ve seen time and again that when women and girls do better, countries do better as well" said Ambassador Russell. "That means our broader shared goals for the Western Hemisphere -- security, prosperity, and good governance — are deeply connected to the issues of child marriage and motherhood."
In other words, it’s in our interest for laws around early marriage to be respected and implemented. It’s in our interest for girls to get the education they need to earn money and eventually invest it in their own children’s health and education.
That’s why it’s critical, said Ambassador Russell, "that we answer the call to do better and do more to end early and forced marriage in the Americas.”