Child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) impacts the lives of millions of girls globally, gravely affecting and undermining their integral wellbeing and health, while often exposing them to severe violence and exploitation, stripping them of their basic rights. By disproportionately depriving girls of their opportunities for education, economic independence, and social and civic participation, this harmful practice slows down the overall progress of societies, resulting in an ever-increasing human and economic toll.
Plan International is leading the charge in programming and campaigning against the malpractice of CEFM through holistic interventions in partnership with a range of stakeholders at all levels. By challenging social norms, strengthening and enforcing legislation, and providing economic and social resources and safety nets, Plan International is working towards its ultimate goal of ending CEFM by 2030.
As part of their efforts, Plan International Asia Hub worked with QUO to design two in-depth reports on the detrimental effects of CEFM, and the promising actions that can be taken to end this practice. The Phase I report, Their Time is Now, focuses on the prevalence of CEFM across Asia, detailing the reasons why this harmful practice occurs, what are its devastating consequences, and how it should be prevented and eliminated.
The Phase II report, Time to Act!, details the options and methods for interventions to help girls and young women across Asia to find a better life outside of CEFM, both socially and economically, and emphasises effective actions that need to be scaled up in order to end child marriage. This report includes extensive document reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders in five focus countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
The launch of the reports was held in Bangkok on 03 December. The event brought together experts in the field dedicated to ending CEFM from across the region as well as youth activists, both girls and boys, who are campaigning against CEFM within their own communities and countries.
Raša Sekulović, Regional Head of Child Protection and Partnerships, Plan International Asia Hub; and Ingrid Fitzgerald, the Regional Human Rights and Gender Adviser, UNFPA Asia Pacific Regional Office (APRO), co-moderated the event.
Experts contributing to the discussion included Krista Zimmerman, Head of Influencing and Policy, Plan International Asia Hub; Björn Andersson, Regional Director UNFPA APRO; Mikiko Otani, a Member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child; Neha Chauhan, Senior Technical Advisor, Advocacy and Accountability, International Planned Parenthood Federation, South Asia Regional Office; Jo Sauvarin, Technical Adviser on Adolescence and Youth, UNFPA APRO; and Kabir Singh, Regional Advisor on HIV and Health, UNESCO Asia Pacific Regional Bureau for Education. The discussion also included contributions from IIya Smirnoff, Executive Director, Childline Thailand; and Dr. Jetn Sirathranont, Member of the Parliament and Chair of the Committee on Public Health, National Legislative Assembly of Thailand, and the Secretary-General of the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, who stressed that CEFM is a priority issue for ASEAN.
Raša Sekulović summarised the report's findings as follows: “What we learn from the recent research reports is that this complex situation requires a complex solution. Combined and integrated interventions, including education, youth economic empowerment, challenging social norms and harmful traditions, and consistent enforcement of the relevant legislation need to be pursued in parallel in order to reduce and eventually eliminate CEFM. Gender inequalities, injustice and discriminatory practices need to be constantly challenged and transformed, as they are lying at the very root of the problem. Better equipped with this knowledge and renewed understanding, we are determined to contribute to accelerated action, urging an immediate response and increased investments. The time is now to end child, early and forced marriage!”
Thuryaa, an all-female Sri Lankan drummer group (such drumming is customarily only performed by men in Sri Lanka), wowed participants with an incredible display of musical talent at intervals throughout the launch.
In addition to preparing the reports, QUO also helped design the materials for the launch event itself, which included posters and banners, along with a 2.5 x 1 m canvas on which participants signed their pledge against CEFM.
Both reports have been uploaded to the Plan International Civil Society Asia website to be freely downloaded and shared by stakeholders around the world. Please visit: