Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18. That’s 22 girls every minute whose health is put at risk and childhood, dreams, and education are cut short.

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The practice of child marriage— defined as a formal or informal union where one or both parties are under the age of 18—impacts children across countries, cultures, and religions. The work to address the needs of child brides and those at risk of child marriage is often unfunded and under-prioritized. Approaches to ending child marriage and meeting the needs of married children must address the many complex and interrelated causes and consequences of early marriage including gender inequality, poverty, fragility, unjust legal systems, and harmful social norms and traditions that perpetuate the practice.

Furthermore, child marriage commonly results in motherhood before girls are physically or emotionally ready. More than 90% of births to adolescent mothers (ages 15-19) occur within marriage. Sadly, pregnancy is the number one cause of death for adolescent girls. And early pregnancy not only puts a young mother at risk, but her baby has a lower chance of survival as well.

The U.S., in partnership with many other donors and countries, has made significant progress in the last 15 years to address child marriage globally, with the number of girls married before 18 changing from 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 girls. But there’s still a lot to do. Unless we increase efforts to end child marriage, 150 million more girls will be married by 2030. This number is likely much higher due to worldwide school closures, restrictions on movement, and the crippling economic impacts of COVID-19 on already-struggling families and communities around the world.

Now is the time to act: Ask Congress for increased funding to meet the needs of already-married girls and to work toward ending child marriage for good.