First UN Panel on Child Marriage: A Focus on Grassroots Local Development Efforts

Courtesy of the UNOn September 15th, 2014, the United Nations held its first discussion on child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM) worldwide. The discussion, structured as a panel, featured many accomplished speakers including the moderator, Mabel van Oranje. During the event there were many courses of action presented to end CEFM as soon as possible, several of which highlighted the need for grassroots development efforts.

The panel, as part of the lead up to the 69th United Nations General Assembly, brought CEFM to the forefront of UN discussions for the first time. Mabel van Oranje brought to the table her background working with Girls Not Brides, a global partnership working to end child marriage. Named one of the World Economic Forum’s Youngest Global Leaders in 2005, Oranje has founded and served on the board of multiple peace and development organizations. Currently, she serves as the chair for the board of trustees for Girls Not Brides.

The timing of this discussion has significant global relevance because there was much discussion of incorporating the elimination of CEFM into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If ending CEFM becomes a priority goal in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, it could yield significant increases in women-centric programming and principles.

During the discussion – and included in the summary of key messages – panelists stressed the importance of local grassroots development efforts. Two focuses of the conversation were gender-based empowerment and community mobilization, both of which are also fundamental pillars in The Hunger Project’s work. These bottom-up strategies for combating CEFM introduced during the panel reinforced the necessity for grassroots efforts. Girls Not Brides articulated similar strategies for combating CEFM. Mirroring The Hunger Project, their strategy focuses on community mobilization as opposed to resource allocation. They highlight government participation as crucial to changing the legacy of CEFM. These targets show a promising commitment to grassroots development for the global fight against CEFM. The iERG report Every Women, Every Child: A Post-2015 Vision cited child marriage as one of the most common globally neglected issues affecting women and children. While the elimination of CEFM is not guaranteed a place on the global stage as part of the SDGs, its relevance and importance are evident from the focus of this panel, in addition to the involvement of international organizations and partnerships.

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