Ending child marriage: Canada speaks up for rights of girls worldwide

John BairdFOREIGN Affairs Minister John Baird on Friday announced that Canada is contributing $20 million over two years to UNICEF toward ending child, early and forced marriage.

“Today’s announcement is the latest step in Canada’s campaign to end child, early and forced marriage”, said Baird. “This troubling practice is a violation of human rights and also hinders economic development. When girls can’t reach their full potential, everyone suffers—girls, their communities and their countries.”

“Protecting children is a priority for Canada and we will continue to pursue all available avenues to put an end to child, early and forced marriage in the world,” said Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie. “We will continue to work through trusted partners like UNICEF to ensure that our actions translate into concrete results for the well-being of girls and women.”

“Child marriage denies girls the right to be girls and to make decisions affecting their own lives,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Few personal decisions have greater impact than the decision on when to marry. Girls who marry later stay in school longer, give birth later and are better able to reach their full potential—to the benefit of girls themselves, their families and their societies. The Government of Canada’s leadership in ending child marriage will touch the lives of millions of girls.”

The UNICEF project aims to accelerate the movement to end child marriage in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Yemen and Zambia by supporting efforts in these countries to strengthen programming and political support to end the practice.

The announcement builds on Canada’s ongoing efforts to end child, early and forced marriage worldwide and to promote the full participation of women in all aspects of society.


Child, early and forced marriage is perpetuated by poverty and gender discrimination. It is estimated that between 2004 and 2014, 100 million girls worldwide will have been forced to marry before their 18th birthday.

Friday’s announcement will further UNICEF’s work in addressing child, early and forced marriage in six countries—Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Yemen and Zambia. Despite strong efforts to end child marriage in these countries, the practice remains prevalent.
Over the last two years, Canada has shown leadership in raising global attention and taken concrete action to end child, early and forced marriage.

Canada spearheaded the creation of the International Day of the Girl Child in 2011, and the first International Day of the Girl Child took place on October 11, 2012. Its first theme, early forced marriage, brought attention and increased international focus to the issue.

In May 2013, Canada co-sponsored the launch of the United Nations Population Fund’s Too Young to Wed photo exhibit in Ottawa, which depicts powerful images and videos from around the world that put a human face on child, early and forced marriage, including through stories from affected girls in their own voices. An abridged version of this exhibit will be shown in 10 venues abroad over the next year as part of Canada’s efforts to raise awareness and dialogue around this issue.

In September 2013, Canada worked actively to achieve the first stand-alone resolution on child, early and forced marriage at the 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council. The resolution was adopted by consensus with 110 co-sponsors.

In October 2013, Baird announced $5 million in new money to tackle the causes of child, early and forced marriage around the world. Initial programming has been undertaken in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

Canada is also committed to continuing education programs aimed at young girls about maternal health.