More than 700 million women today were married as children.

Of the world’s 1 billion poorest people, 3/5 are girls and women.

More than 1 in 3 (or some 250 million) were married before 15.

When unpaid domestic work is taken into account, women’s total work hours are longer than men’s in all regions.

Two-thirds of the illiterate people in the world are girls/women.

An illiterate Girl

An illiterate Girl

An illiterate Boy

89 girls complete primary school for every 100 boys who complete primary school.

Girls 89%
Boys 100%
Of the 59.3 million out-of-school children of primary school age, 31 million are girls.

Girls drop out of formal schooling because of poverty, early marriage, gender-based violence, cultural practices and a lack of resources, among other challenges.

"The consequences of child marriage for girls and societies are serious, wide-ranging and compel a variety of sectors to take action: child marriage denies a girl her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, exposes her to the risk of pregnancy and complications from childbirth, and increases her risk of contracting STIs, including HIV, as well as her risk of being a victim of violence and abuse."

Government of Canada – UNICEF, 2014

Millions of girls are forced into early marriage for economic and cultural reasons. If resource-poor families are to invest in the education of their children, boys receive priority. In many cultures, girls are considered a burden as the parents have to often pay dowries at marriage.

However, if education is both affordable and flexible, girls too can have the opportunity to participate without disrupting their responsibilities in the home and the family. If girls are taught the skills necessary for livelihoods, they can be a major source of supplementing the family income.

When women are married, an infant born to an educated woman is much more likely to survive into adulthood. In Africa, children of mothers who receive five years of primary education are 40 per cent more likely to live beyond age five. An educated women is 50 per cent more likely to have her children immunised against childhood diseases (DFID, 2005).


"Providing learning opportunities for vulnerable, hard-to-reach women and girls is one of the best investments we can make in working towards sustainable development,” said Professor Asha Kanwar, President & CEO, Commonwealth of Learning. “Empowering women and girls to shape their own future has an incredible multiplier effect on economic growth that leads to increased prosperity not just for individuals, but for entire families."


  • United Nations Children’s Fund, Ending Child Marriage: Progress and prospects, UNICEF, New York, 2014
  • Commonwealth of Learning, Gender Mainstreaming in Learning for Sustainable Development, 2015
  • Government of Canada – UNICEF: Accelerating the Movement to End Child Early and Forced Marriage – Annual Progress and Utilization Report, 2014