American Jewish World Service Receives Major Grant to Address Child Marriage in India

$15.3 million grant from the Kendeda Fund will support work of Indian activists

NEW YORK, NY—American Jewish World Service (AJWS) announced today that it is the recipient of a $15.3 million grant from the Kendeda Fund to address child marriage in India. As the leading Jewish organization working to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world, AJWS currently funds 18 organizations in India that support rights for women and girls and work to end child marriage. This major grant will allow AJWS to fund even more grassroots advocates and larger social change organizations in India. These organizations work to empower girls and hasten the end of child marriage by addressing the economic and social causes that lead families to marry their daughters at very young ages.

“Child marriage has been going on in many parts of the world for millennia, tragically limiting opportunities for generations of women and girls,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. “With the Kendeda Fund’s generous support, AJWS and the social change organizations it works with in India will be able to deepen and strengthen their efforts to hasten the end of child marriage and improve the lives of millions of girls.”

“During a recent trip to India with American Jewish World Service, it became clear to me that the practice of child marriage is deeply connected to broader issues of sexual and gender rights,” said Dena Kimball, fund advisor for the Kendeda Fund. “It is both harmful to girls and dramatically diminishes their future opportunities. We know that girls who marry early are more likely to drop out of school, to suffer health problems, to live in poverty, and to experience gender-based violence. These same girls are more likely to either die in childbirth or lose their newborn infants.

“I believe that change has to be conceived of and led by the people of India in communities across the country and by organizations that are deeply committed to the long-term realization of girls’ rights. I was inspired by meeting so many wise leaders and activists in India, many of whom AJWS supports. This experience—as well as years of getting to know AJWS’s work in other countries—gave the Kendeda Fund the confidence that AJWS would approach this initiative with humility, respect and the same deep conviction I share: that our job as funders is to find, nurture and amplify the incredible work being done across India to empower girls to shape their own futures,” added Kimball.

In addition to funding AJWS’s work to end child marriage in India, the Kendeda Fund also awarded a $7.7 million grant to CARE USA to work on child marriage in Bangladesh and Nepal.

In India, Bangladesh, Nepal and other places around the world, families and brides commonly see early marriage as the best option to provide a happier and more secure future for girls and their families. While done with the best of intentions, Indian advocates believe deeply that child marriage undermines a girl’s opportunities in life. AJWS is committed to working to ensure that girls have the support they need to make their own decisions about their futures.

About the Kendeda Fund

The Kendeda Fund was founded 10 years ago with initial investments made in environmental sustainability in the United States. In 2012, the Fund developed an international portfolio focused on girls’ rights. The Kendeda Fund’s Girls’ Rights portfolio awarded its first grants in 2013.

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