Averting a child marriage-UNDP supports local group under EU/UN Spotlight Initiative

December 9, 2022

Campaign against sexual violence and abuse against women and children

UNDP Liberia

Sia, not her real name, is passionate about soccer. But in 2019, the family of this 16-year-old girl wanted to marry her off.

'My family is in the process of arranging my marriage to a 50 year old man,’ she desperately told the staff of YEZEBU, a Community-Based Organization (CBO) that was campaigning against child marriage at Quardu Gboni District, Lofa County.

Sia asked them to intervene and save her from the marriage because she preferred to stay in school.

One of the most common forms of harmful practices affecting adolescent girls in Lofa County is child marriage.

YEZEBU is one of local CBOs collaborating with medica Liberia to implement a project funded by the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative in five counties to end Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) and other harmful practices.

Under the project, UNDP supported the training of CBOs on SGBV, harmful practices and about sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) to empower them to effectively undertake their campaigns and enhance their impact.

The organizations were also given small grants to campaign against prevalent violence against women and girls. 

During the campaign launched by YEZEBU in Lofa County, more than 1,200 people drawn from five communities, including Sia, were educated on the dangers of child marriage.

YEZEBU held several meetings with the family and discussed the consequences of early child marriage on Sia’s future resulting in stoppage of the arrangement of the marriage.  

‘When the marriage was cancelled, I was very happy and felt relieved. I can now focus on my school and do the things that I love to,” Sia exclaimed. 

Determined to finish school, Sia moved to Monrovia after the project’s intervention. She is now promoted to grade 12 for academic year 2022-2023 under the sponsorship of her soccer team.

Child and forced marriage (CFM) is a human rights violation and a harmful practice that disproportionately affects women and girls globally, preventing them from living their lives free from all forms of violence.

36% of girls in Liberia are married before their 18th birthday and 9% are married before the age of 15. Liberia has the 20th highest prevalence of child marriage globally.