Every 60 seconds, an average of 27 girls under the age of 18 are married.
As child brides, these girls often drop out of school. Their economic opportunities are limited. And they have an increased risk of serious health concerns, from violence to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS.
"The United States is working to increase the participation of women across the board, including in the formal workforce," said Ambassador-at Large for Global Women's Issues Catherine Russell in recent Congressional testimony, "because we know that women’s full participation is good for women — and it’s also good for their families and their countries."
But child marriage is a major barrier to that participation. It strips girls of their ability to learn and contribute to their societies and economies. Indeed, married girls are less likely to send their own children to school and to get them immunized.
Child marriage happens for a variety of reasons, including traditional gender roles, poverty, violence and insecurity. And each of these drivers can be made worse by state fragility, conflict, and humanitarian emergencies.
There is no single solution that can address child marriage once and for all. That’s why the United States takes a holistic approach — from health and safety, to education and economic opportunity, to the rights of women and girls around the world.
The Let Girls Learn initiative, launched by President Barack Obama, is aimed at designing new, holistic programs for adolescent girls. These programs will be created, funded, and implemented by USAID and the State Department, in partnership with select countries.
The United States is committed to helping girls attain the freedom, the rights, and the tools they need to reach their full potential. Because when girls are empowered, their communities are safer, their economies are stronger, and their countries more likely to reach their full potential.