Nowadays we are surrounded by all sorts of BIG PROBLEMS. Global warming, food security, population growth, and you name it. One of these BIG PROBLEMS is child marriage. Although hard to believe, today, all regions around the world still have countries with areas where early marriage is prevalent, and it is most pronounced in South Asia and West Africa. In Bangladesh, India, Mali, and Nepal, at least half of all women currently ages 20 to 24 were married by age 18, according to Demographic and Health Survey data. In certain regions of Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, and Nigeria, at least 40 percent of these women were married before age 15. If current patterns continue during the next decade, more than 100 million girls will be married before the age of 18, according to a Population Council analysis of the UN. Serve consequences can be created by child marriages: drop out of school, early pregnancy, obstetric fistula, maternal mortality, HIV, continued poverty, abuse, attempted suicide, and a lot of others. Although BIG SOLUTIONS such as raise awareness of rights to girls globally and leverage US foreign aid to have countries change their laws can be used to address these BIGT PROBLEMS, sometimes small solutions also matter.
One BIG SOLUTION to the issue of child marriage is educating the girls, however, it is really costly to improve the education from top to down since given the fact that in some countries girls are not valued and governmental forces may not be effective. Then what can we do to keep girls in schools and educate them for late marriage? Small solutions work at these kinds of settings—give girls uniforms! A study conducted in Sub-Sahara Africa finds that teenage pregnancy rates in the schools where uniforms were offered fell from 14% to 11% after a year—for every three girls who stayed in school because of the free uniform, two delay their first pregnancy. Also, another study finds that although child marriage rate is high in some African countries due to a belief of having sex with young girls is a solution to HIV infections, if girls are told the true of the myth of “Sugar Daddies” (the facts of those old men who give girls money to have sex and “want” to marry them are mostly HIV positive), there could be a sharp drop in this kind of child marriage and early sex.
So, while sometimes BIG SOLUTIONS which come from top to down tend to be costly and ineffective, small solutions which from down to top and especially in the case of child marriage—small solutions from teenage girls really matter. We cannot push for change unless we understand the demand of young people. So let’s give the youth their voices and solve BIG PROBLEMS through small solutions.