The European Union, UNICEF, and ABAAD unite to advocate against child marriage in Lebanon

Marking the end of the global campaign ’16 Days of Activism’ to combat violence against women and girls, the European Union, UNICEF, and the Lebanese NGO ABAAD came together to raise concerns about child marriage at an event at Holiday Inn Dunes in Beirut where they launched a video animation on child marriage entitled “Marriage is Not a Game”.

The animation film shown at the event reminded everyone that “Marriage is not a game” and highlighted the risks associated with child marriage. The video was produced with participation from girls, boys, women, men, and community leaders, and developed by UNICEF and ABAAD as part of an EU-funded project supporting Lebanon’s National Plan to Safeguard Women and Children.

The film will be used by UNICEF, ABAAD and other partners in community centres, schools, social development centres, informal tented settlements, primary healthcare centres and other gateways, to reach as many children, adolescents, and caregivers as possible.

Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon said: “Child marriage is one of the almost ‘invisible’ abuses taking place amongst us. And we can help ending this practice by being informed, attentive and above all by speaking up against it.”

“Child marriage violates the rights of children and puts their health and future at risk”, said Annamaria Laurini, UNICEF’s Representative in Lebanon. “We are taking a stance against this practice and showing our commitment with our partners, to foster discussion and advocate for the protection of young.”

Ghida Anani, founder and Director of NGO ABAAD said: “Stopping Child Marriage will not be achieved without the joining of efforts between civil society institutions, governmental bodies, and all institutions that play a vital role in the socialization process such as the religious, educational, and media institutions. It is time to support girls to get out of the cycle of vulnerability, violence, and exploitation”.

According to global UNICEF statistics released this year, over 700 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday.

In Lebanon the exact number of child brides is not known, however, the phenomenon is a rising trend affecting adolescent girls and boys. UNICEF Lebanon findings from 2009 showed that 6% of women aged 20 to 24 years were married before the age of 18. The current crisis in Syria is further exacerbating the phenomenon in Lebanon.

The funding from the European Union for this video forms part of its overall response to the consequences of the Syrian conflict for Lebanon. One of the areas supported is the existing child protection and Sexual and Gender-based Violence system in Lebanon. This support, implemented through UNICEF, supports the Ministry of Social Affairs as well as Lebanese organisations such as ABAAD improve the protection of all in Lebanon.

UNICEF has been working with partners to raise awareness on child marriage amongst communities and promote girls’ empowerment, engaging with caregivers, religious leaders, and service providers.

Although the trend on the ground is disturbing, there are encouraging signs in certain countries in the region. According to UNICEF statistics published in 2014, the Middle East and North Africa region has made the fastest progress in reducing child marriage. The percentage of women married before the age of 18 has dropped by about half over the last three decades.

For more information, please contact:

UNICEF:

Salam Abdulmunem, sabdulmunem@unicef.org, +961 70 99 66 05

European Delegation to Lebanon:

Silke Hofs, silke.hofs@eeas.europa.eu , +961 78 94 71 08