Achieving Gender Equality

Each year, 15 million girls worldwide marry before age 18. AJWS confronts the root cause of child marriage: harmful restrictions on what women and girls can do with their lives.

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The Problem

Around the world, gender inequality continues to hold women and girls back from the opportunities and freedom they deserve. Many live in communities that don’t respect their rights to make decisions about their own lives and bodies.

  • Women make up two-thirds of the world’s labor force. They own just 1% of the world’s wealth.
  • Globally, only 1 out of every 4 elected representatives is a woman.
  • About 70% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner.
  • 1 out of every 3 girls in the developing world marries before age 18, often without their consent.

In India, child marriage remains one of the most concerning symptoms of gender inequality, despite decades-old laws against the practice. India has the highest number of underage brides in the world.

A lot of conservative communities in India still believe that young women shouldn’t go to college or find well-paid jobs. This belief often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as girls grow up thinking they can’t achieve what boys can. Many parents view child marriage as the key to securing a stable future for their daughters—not realizing that younger brides are more likely to experience violence from their partners and live in poverty.

Our Solutions

Laws against child marriage haven’t fixed the problem. Even when the laws work, they don’t necessarily empower girls or improve their lives—they just delay marriage until age 18. That’s why AJWS developed a comprehensive approach to ending child marriage that addresses the root cause: gender inequality.

“If a boy is born, then it’s a celebration. And if a girl is born, it’s a burden. So how do you address that?”

Veda Bharadwaja

The Hunger Project

After 15 years of funding and learning from Indian activists, AJWS launched a $30 million initiative to promote gender equality in India. Since 2014, we have supported more than 60 Indian organizations that help young women make informed choices about all aspects of their lives, increase their access to education and jobs, and develop the skills to advocate for their rights.

Our unique, comprehensive strategy focuses on the Four A’saspirations, agency, availability and access—and includes:

LOCALLY-LED PROGRAMS in India to support women and girls to speak up for their rights and reach for new opportunities

RESEARCH in India to identify promising solutions and help organizations assess their progress in more meaningful ways

ADVOCACY to amplify the impact of our partners’ insights and urge organizations across the globe to support more effective methods of empowering adolescent girls

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Every year, about 15 million girls around the world get married before age 18.

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India is home to one-third
of the world's child brides.

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Girls from poor families are two times more likely to marry before 18 than girls from wealthier families.

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