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REPORT EMBARGOED FOR 10:30 a.m. EST, Sept. 4

Press contacts:
Geraldine Ryerson-Cruz

Millions of girls married early lose
out on health, schooling

  • World Vision specialists on girls’ education and well-being available for comment
  • Report highlights trends and prevention efforts in Africa, Asia and Central America

Washington, D.C., Sept. 3, 2008 — While most girls in North America are starting a new school year this week, millions of their peers across the developing world must stay home and stop their education because they have become child brides. The result is a continuing spiral of poverty, illiteracy and maternal and child health problems in impoverished and underdeveloped communities worldwide, humanitarian workers say.

Child and early marriage — before the ages of 14 and 18, respectively — are expected to claim the futures of some 100 million girls in the next decade, depriving most of them of the chance to finish school and putting them at higher risk of injury or death due to early childbearing, and of contracting HIV. Aid workers also report that the current global food crisis is exacerbating the practice, pushing more poor families to send young daughters into marriage in their struggle to cope with the strains of deeper poverty and hunger.

Before she's ready: Fifteen places girls marry by 15,” a new briefing paper from Christian humanitarian organization World Vision, illustrates the causes and human costs of early marriage in countries and regions where it is most common. With contributions from development and advocacy workers in the field, the report also highlights innovative and successful programs in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zambia where a variety of approaches aim to tackle the underlying needs that often fuel the practice.

“As we watch girls across America going back to school, this is an especially poignant time to realize that instead of balancing classes with sports and friends, millions of young girls around the world are instead balancing the adult responsibilities of maintaining a household, premature pregnancies and caring for children, a husband and in-laws,” said Ruthi Hoffman Hanchett, education policy officer with World Vision International. “Multiple studies have taught us that there is no more effective tool for development, or better investment for impoverished countries, than to educate girl children. But we find that with so many girls forced to leave school at early ages, a cycle of poverty and illiteracy continues to trap their families and communities.”

Media are invited to speak with World Vision specialists from Africa and South Asia about the impact in those regions, and on girls’ education globally. World Vision works in relief, development and advocacy in 100 nations, focusing on the well-being of children and their communities.

Experts include:

Karoline Davis, national coordinator for gender and development, World Vision India.
Davis, based in Chennai, will discuss the trends in India and promising approaches for delaying marriage in area development programmes and an HIV prevention project in Mumbai.

Ruthi Hoffman Hanchett, policy officer for education, World Vision International
Hoffman Hanchett brings a background in gender rights integration to advocacy for better education policy for girls.

Amboka Wameyo, advocacy program integration manager, World Vision Canada.
Wameyo, a Kenyan who previously managed the agency’s regional advocacy for 25 African countries, can address the need for local advocacy based in high-incidence countries to promote better policies to protect girl children.

The report is available here.

These specialists and others from programs in various regions will also be available for further interviews. To schedule a separate call or for more information, contact Geraldine Ryerson-Cruz at 202-615-2608 (mobile) or .

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit

Who Is World Vision?

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice..

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