Imagine being 15 years old, forced to marry an older man, drop out of school, and have a child as a child yourself. The nightmare of child marriage becomes a reality for 14 million girls each year.

But today we have good news: Malawi just passed a law which raises the legal age of marriage from 15 years old to 18 years old.

In Malawi, about half of all girls are married by the time they are 18, so this is a much-needed step to recognize the rights of girls.

Fundamentally, child marriage is a violation of human rights. It’s also a harmful practice that drags down communities and economies. When girls are safe, healthy, educated, and empowered, research has shown that they help have healthier children, earn more income, and help grow economies – making them powerful agents of positive change.

Elevating the rights and voices of girls is a key priority for the United Nations, the United Nations Foundation, and our Girl Up campaign. And thanks to our community of supporters, we helped girls in Malawi stand up against child marriage.

  • In Malawi, the UN Foundation and Girl Up supported Let Girls Lead, an organization which provides leadership development to help girls become champions for their rights.
  • Let Girls Lead partnered with the Girls Empowerment Network and engaged more than 200 girls in Malawi in advocating for an end to child marriage with village chiefs and other leaders.
  • Additionally, Girl Up supports UN efforts in Malawi to make sure girls get the health and education they need and deserve.

Memory Banda is a girl from Malawi who has worked with Let Girls Lead and the Girls Empowerment Network since 2011. Her sister was married at age 11, but Memory defied expectations to stay in school. She wrote last year:

“I challenged my family and explained that early marriage was not for me. I told those who thought that I should marry earlier that education and freedom of my rights would be the path of my life. I personally needed to change the way society perceives and defines the needs of girls and women. Most importantly, I needed a different society which respects my choices as a girl.”

Now we need to keep the momentum going. To learn more and join the movement to empower adolescent girls, visit our Girl Up campaign at GirlUp.org.

As Memory also wrote: “Everyone can champion girls’ rights. This solution begins with hope, commitment and action.” [Tweet it!]