Every day, 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth in the developing world.
When a young girl becomes pregnant, her future drastically alters. Even more so if the girl lives in poverty. When an impoverished girl becomes pregnant, her chances of escaping the cycle of poverty are slim. However, early marriages and pregnancies are common practice in many parts of the world. Around the globe, including in America, girls living in poverty are much more likely to become pregnant earlier then girls who are born into wealthier families. Girls who grow up in impoverished families can also be denied the basic rights of health care and education regarding reproductive health. This is increasingly prevalent in many developing countries as in these countries of the 7.3 million girls who give birth every year, 2 million of them are under the age of 14.
Many social, economic and cultural factors play into these strikingly high statistics making it challenging to reverse the cycle of adolescent pregnancy. In developing countries it is often part of the social norm to marry and have children young especially because in many cases, it is the only way to economically survive. When families can no longer afford to care for their girl, marrying her off might be a girl’s only chance to survive.
Unfortunately, research has shown that early marriages and pregnancies can be detrimental to a girl’s mental and physical health. Child marriages are more likely prevent girls from attending school and girls who marry early are more likely to be victims of domestic violence. Early childbearing is much more dangerous for a girl who has not fully developed. When a girl’s body is not physically ready to have children, she is more prone to developing an obstetric fistula during labor. A new report, “Motherhood in Childhood“, challenges activists to take a new approach in dealing with these issues. The report argues that a young girl forced into marriage rarely has a say in whether or when she will become pregnant. Therefore, a pregnancy-prevention intervention type campaign will not be applicable to a young girl in this situation. The report further argues that the problem lies within poverty, gender inequality, discrimination and lack of access to services. Tackling all of these related issues together is an effective way to empower girls and create a pathway to fewer adolescent pregnancies and marriages. World Vision’s Strong Women, Strong World initiative works with all of these dilemmas together as we know how intertwined these issues are. Continue to help Strong Women, Strong World secure the rights of girls worldwide.