Unveiling some of many risks of early marriage, and the significance of a call for action.
Picture yourself at the tender age of 15, and your parents decided to deprive you from one of your most basic rights: education. And why? so that you could marry some boy you barely know from your village and who might be at least 7 to 8 years older than you. Envision the scenario where instead of classrooms and friends and books, having an arranged marriage with a stranger.
Now imagine the challenges of becoming a mother at the age of 16, the physical abuse this will put you through, and zero financial independence to break the cycle of mental and physical violence this put you in. Such narrative may seem from the past, in our great grandparents’ era maybe, but do you know this still happens? In many regions in the world, it will make you frustrated. Do you care to delve into the risks of those girls?
We might not be living them, and most probably do not know anyone that is, but this is a call to sympathy and awareness, so even if we are shielded and blessed, countless girls out there aren’t.
Let’s dive into those risks.
Around the world, child marriage is a widespread and deeply ingrained social issue that impacts millions of children, especially girls. When one or both partners are under the age of 18, it refers to an informal union. Even while we have made great strides in many areas of human growth, these unsettling realities still exist in some parts of the world, especially in less developed nations and regions like Africa and some Arab regions.
The health problems that young brides confront are among the most urgent; early pregnancies raise the risk of maternal death and difficulties after childbirth. Girls forced into early marriages sometimes find themselves taken away from school, which harms their educational goals and leads to increased literacy. Additionally, early marriages come with a higher rate of domestic abuse.
Beyond physical health, there is a significant psychological cost. Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety can be factual consequences. Little girls have little to no financial independence which keeps them stuck in this loop. Hovering over the countries, we can see that most of those in darker shade of blue are African countries, and other less developed countries including Bangladesh, Chad, Niger, Mali, and others. The treemap serves to highlight some of these countries where this is highly prevalent.
Poverty, is one of the root causes of Early Marriage which is shown below, that poverty is relatively high in the countries mentioned in this study. Parents in less developed countries think of their daughters as financial burdens which is why they take them out of school and force them into marrying young. Limited living resources force families to believe that marriage is a way of surviving. In the same countries we put into study, we can see that the Poverty Headcount is large in most of them.
According to UNICEF, 21% of young women (aged 20 to 24) were married as children. Before turning eighteen, one in five females gets married. That figure doubles in the least developed nations, where 12% of girls get married before turning 15 and 40% of girls get married before turning 18. This is 28 girl every minute. The below visuals show that the countries in study are mainly located in Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa as well as Asia, have their women justify being beaten by their husbands and still normalize it, have young girls out of school, and have higher risks of maternal death, meaning that early marriage may cause all the below. These are just some amongst many consequences.
Countries including Bangladesh, Senegal, Niger, Uganda, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Guinea, and many more, seemed to always have these issues combined.
Can you believe that 17.48% of women in Bangladesh justify being beaten? Followed by 11.63% in Mali, 10.80% in Ethiopia, ranking the top 3 among many other countries.
Additionally, 18.41%, followed by 13.19% and 9.19% in Niger, Guinea, and Mozambique respectively.
The Bubble Chart serves to highlight countries where Maternal Death Risk is most prevalent as well. Is it a coincidence that the same countries that have high early marriage rates, almost rank high in all three risks?
It is imperative to save young girls from forced marriage, give them the right education they deserve, decrease their risk of dying while giving birth, mitigate the physical and mental abuse, and give them the right to just be little girls.
Collectively, we can combat early marriage and create an atmosphere where girls feel empowered to continue their education and make educated decisions about their futures, to mitigate the risks.
It can include educational awareness, health awareness, social awareness against violence and domestic abuse, free training, and educational programs, etc.
Details of the solution:
Promoting access to quality education especially for girls by making it free especially in the less developed countries where parents would rather not spend any money on their girls and see them as financial burdens.
Conducting awareness campaigns on the potential side effects of child marriages.
Create economic opportunities for girls through skill development and training to enhance their financial independence.
Promotion of Gender Equality.
Engaging parents in these campaigns on the importance of financial stability and independence before marriage.
The solution may also include legal consequences.
Leveraging social media to raise awareness!
Findings and Recommendations:
The recommendations are centered around the efforts that should be made to enforce the laws setting a minimum age for marriage, additionally to challenging the cultural norms and conducting awareness activities, setting a legal age for marriage, support and healthcare systems, educational and training initiatives and provide girls with the circumstances that allow them to make their own decisions.
Steve: “I would kill for – I would kill for sex! YES!KILL!”
The Board lights up with “KILL” as the no. 2 answer, the audience in the studio laughed, the audience at home laughed, and the video went viral of yet another successful episode of family feuds. Good job Steve, you are one hell of a host.
That night, the audience in the studio went home after a good laugh. After all, it is all good, if it is just a joke, right? But guess what, this isn’t a joke. This is a reality that many women face on a daily basis. That’s already horrendous, yet there exist an even harsher and more terrifying reality.
a young woman, married at the age of 18, a mother of two, and she spends her day roaming around carrying a basket over her head selling fresh produce to help support her family. She never got the chance to continue her education, but she’s doing her best to survive.
But once she gets home, that’s when her hell begins.
She gets beaten up by her husband if she doesn’t service him sexually. Let that sink in. She goes back home… only to get beaten if she refuses to sex her husband.
If that wasn’t bad enough, wait for the uppercut.
She believes her husband IS justified for beating her when she refuses sex with him.
Now imagine that is YOU…
Unfortunately, more than 60% of women in Mali believe that a husband is justified to beat his wife if she refuses to have sex with him; quite. Similarly, countries like Guinea, Niger, Burundi, Chad, Senegal, etc… also experienced a relatively high rate of women accepting that notion.
On the other hand, countries like South Africa, Albania, Dominican Republic, and Colombia had shown that the percentage of women accepting the notion of a husband being justified to beat his wife if she refuses to have sex with him is to be at 1% or less.
Drilling down into this alarming phenomenon, and trying to understand why such a phenomenon even exists, we discovered yet another factor that might play a significant role in that.
The dropout rate for female students from the educational system (especially at the primary level) is astronomically higher in countries where women believe in the notion compared to the countries where women do not share this notion.
As such, one way to combat this notion is to heavily invest in the educational sector and facilitate accessibility in order to empower women and break these hellish chains.
However, as demonstrated by Burundi, while education might be key, it is not enough. It should be coupled with awareness and empowerment campaigns in order to reinforce the self-esteem and self-worth of these marginalized female groups.
Let’s work together to make this world a better place for all of us!!!
“The enemy doesn’t stand a chance when the victim decides to survive.” – Rae Smith
How Is It Justified?
Globally, 1 in 3 women have been subjected to partner violence, and it becomes worst when women consider this violence justifiable. Early marriage is a major reason that women think it’s okay to be beaten up by their spouses, usually, spousal age differences, power inequalities, un-continued education, and a lack of female autonomy are all common features of early age marriages. These factors have been linked to an increased risk of domestic violence and affected women’s awareness of their entitlement, self-esteem, status, and their sense of empowerment.
In most African countries and some Asian countries, women believed spousal violence is justified and that can be linked to high percentages of female adolescents out of school and early marriages in these countries.
Even globally numbers are still worrying, the average number of women who believed a husband is justified in beating up his wife is still Relatively high. With the average number of female adolescents out of school being steady over the past 22 years, marriages at a young age are still taking place and resulting in more domestic violence since spousal age difference can make women more vulnerable to health risks and social Isolation by creating power dynamics. These power dynamics can increase girls’ vulnerability to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.
According to the WDI (World Development Indicators) data some of the justified reasons for domestic violence were:
When women argue with the husband
When she burns the food
When she goes out without telling him
When she neglects the children
When she refuses sex with him
So, you might ask, what can be done? Well, a lot actually. To start with, empowering young women are essential. This can be done through:
Enhance girls’ access to a high-quality education
Empower girls with information, skills, and support networks
Provide financial assistance and incentives to young women and their families
Educate and rally parents and the community members
Education is crucial in preventing females from marrying as adolescents. In fact, the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to marry and have children before she toms 18 years old. Furthermore, education ensures that girls have the skills and information they need to find work and support their families. This can aid in breaking the cycle of poverty and preventing child marriages caused by extreme poverty and/or financial gains.
Education, economic status, and age gap are the main factors behind early marriages and domestic violence. It’s recommended to Promote education and economic opportunities for girls & Employ behavior change communication and community mobilization techniques to change social norms regarding age and marriage.
Educate a girl, change the world – Malala Yousafzai
Being a young lady and living in Lebanon, we always heard stories of women being beaten up, tortured, or killed by their husbands from our family members or friends. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Nearly half of women who die due to homicide are killed by their current or former husbands or boyfriends.” Many articles are bringing to light this issue especially with the start of the Covid19 pandemic, where we have seen a spike in that subject due to quarantine and home stays.
As generations, we have progressed in many fields, but we are still lacking a lot in that domain. How is that possible? One main reason for domestic violence’s on-going presence is that, on average, 37.75% of women around the world believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife (percentage from 2000 till 2020). That’s a huge number! Many women justify this type of violence as “normal’” and give the right to their partners/ husbands to beat them. But why are women justifying and accepting domestic violence? Why is that number this high nowadays?
To dig deep into the subject, I decided to evaluate potential factors that could affect women’s decision in justifying domestic violence such as poverty levels, literacy rates, and early marriages rates around the world. It was found that:
On average, 75.96% of Female aged 15+ are literate around the world (from 2000 till 2020)
On average, 3.63% of the global population live under Poverty Gap at $1.90 a day (from 2000 till 2020)
On average, 6.78% of Female between 20 and 24 years old married at the age of 15 around the world (from 2000 till 2020)
The results showed that countries with low literacy rates in female adults have higher percentages of women who believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife (stand with domestic violence) such as Ethiopia who has a low literacy rate of 28.53% in female adults and a very high percentage of women who justify their husband’s violence (74.23%).
On the poverty level, it was found that countries with higher poverty gaps rates have higher percentages of women who stand with domestic violence such as Congo who has a poverty gap of 51.7% and a very high percentage of women who justify their husband’s violence (75.2%).
Also, when comparing that percentage with the percentage of women who married at the age of 15, it was found that countries with higher numbers of early marriages have higher percentages of women who stand with domestic violence such as Chad who has a percentage of early marriage of 29.47% (of female between 20-24 have married at the age of 15) and a very high number of women who justify their husband’s violence (67.9%).
Poverty, Literacy rates, and Early Marriages in the country affect heavily the perception of women in whether domestic violence by their partners is acceptable or not. High poverty rates increase the justification of domestic violence, low literacy rates increase the justification of domestic violence, and high early marriages rates increase the justification of domestic violence.
Increasing educational benefits in underprivileged countries would be a great initiative to increase literacy rates among women and stopping abuse among families. Introducing educational programs such as Girls’ Education by the World Bank Group which focuses on ensuring that young women receive a quality education, and raising awareness about physical abuse would also encourage the fight against domestic violence. Some countries such as Indonesia have increased the age of marriage of adolescent girls which would contribute to less early marriages, and less acceptance of violence.
Childbirth is considered to be a landmark and joyous moment in any woman’s life. And although health experts say that no two childbirth experiences are the same, it is quite astounding that this can, in many cases, reach the extreme of death. According to statistics released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Division, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank Group, around 2.8 million pregnant women and newborns die every year of preventable causes . This turns childbirth into an event to be feared as it poses a significant threat to the lives of many women across the globe. According to the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs, quality education is defined as one the of the seventeen sustainable development goals (SDGs), so how can education help mitigate childbirth mortality?
“Pregnancy is not a disease. It should not lead to deaths. Every maternal death should be regarded as an abnormality.” – Vivianne Ihekweazu, Director of the Nigerian Health Watch 
How are Childbirth Deaths Related to Education?
The World Development Indicators data from the World Bank  allows us to look into the impact of education on childbirth by exploring the percentage of births that are handle by skilled health staff. In the figure below, we plot the average life expectancy at birth in years with respect to the average percentage of births attended by skilled staff for each country. There is a clear positive correlation between the two variables. We therefore conclude that children who are delivered by skilled health workers during labor are more likely to have a higher life expectancy.
However, the impact of having educated people overseeing child delivery does not stop here. Unfortunately, carrying out child delivery without proper understanding of the necessary health procedures has more alarming implications. In the dashboard below, we notice a sharp decrease in both maternal mortality (women dying during labor) and neonatal mortality (newborns dying at birth) in countries where more childbirths are handled by skilled health workers. This implies that many of the childbirth related deaths can be attributed to the lack of necessary health skills.
Where are these Childbirth Deaths Mostly Occurring?
Below we find the places that suffer the most from this by selecting the countries that have a below average percentage of births attended by skilled staff.
By looking at the geographical distribution of these countries we unsurprisingly find that the majority is located in Africa. Furthermore, we notice that the educational attainment in these countries is significantly lower than countries that have more professionally handled childbirths. This is an expected causality since to have more skilled people perform childbirth procedures we need more educated people.
So the Solution Is, Educate More People!
“The benefits of education permeate all walks of life right from the moment of birth.” – Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO 
In light of the above, we clearly need to have more educated people that are able to professionally handle childbirth procedures. This is especially needed in developing countries where childbirth mortality is more pronounced. A key approach strategy here is to educate the local birth attendants and community midwives that are already active in these communities. These local and community health workers are already more connected to the women and families in their towns making their newly found skills more accessible and allowing them to spread health awareness to pregnant women in their communities . Finally some communities in rural Africa are located in remote locations faraway from any medical supply and service centers. Therefore, setting up portable medical outposts near these towns would greatly enhance the quality of services provided by birth attendants.