You Can Help Spark a Global Movement for Change!
Save the Children’s multifaceted project in Sierra Leone seeks to end child marriage in the rural region of Kailahun, where 45% of girls marry before age 18 – the highest rate in the country – with the goal of expanding our approach to other parts of Africa and beyond. This two-year effort, which kicked off in September 2021, works at the “grass-tops” level through lawmaking and advocacy, and at the “grassroots” to engage communities in fostering change.
Child marriage: a triple threat to girls’ education, health and their very lives
In Sierra Leone, unplanned adolescent pregnancy triggers child marriage. When a girl is pregnant, be the father 18 or 80, she is forced to marry him – and her life takes a drastic turn. She must drop out of school to care for her baby and lives an isolated life, with most ties to friends and family severed. Due in large part to so many young mothers, Sierra Leone’s infant mortality rate is the highest in the world; the maternal mortality rate is 3rd highest.
If the adolescent mother and her children survive, those children face worse outcomes and may not attend school – perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Seizing the moment to make a difference for girls
Our Ending Child Marriage project is working with communities to turn that around – accelerating social behavior change in what is currently a hopeful, progress-oriented time in Sierra Leone.
A law criminalizing marriage before the age of 18 was enacted in 2018. Education is now free for all, and the nation’s education budget is 22% of national income. Passionate and competent national-level leaders like the current Ministers of Education and Gender & Children’s Affairs are determined to move the country forward, emphasizing the schooling and protection of the country’s youngest citizens.
Progress made possible through this project thus far
The Council of Paramount Chiefs recently announced the passing of a single unified bylaw against child marriage for all of Kailahun – a first for the district. This is a monumental win, which reinforces the criminality of child marriage, outlines the punishments for it and instructs community members on how to report it.
Meanwhile, we completed research inside the 15 communities to uncover the most significant local drivers of child marriage, created a Social and Behavior Change strategy based on the findings, and have begun implementing that strategy. With the support of Save the Children, the communities are now implementing tailored action plans to end adolescent pregnancy and child marriage among their people – through actions they design, that will be effective for them.
Why Save the Children?
Save the Children stands out for our experience and expertise, and our ability to develop innovative solutions that are designed and driven by the communities in which we work. For more than 20 years, we have worked holistically within Sierra Leonean communities to identify root causes of gender inequality, develop effective approaches, show evidence of their efficacy and scale up best practices.
Please Join Us in the Fight Against Child Marriage
Inspired by their meeting with the First Lady of Sierra Leone in late 2020, members of our 100 Strong women’s philanthropic leadership network joined forces to launch this project. As of January 2023, $958,000 has been raised toward the overall goal of $1.5 million to carry out this critical two-year initiative. We invite you to review the pilot strategy and our latest progress report:
With you at our side, we can – and will – change the lives of girls in Sierra Leone and beyond, helping them to live fully empowered lives and to shape their own futures. Thank you!
Find Out More
To learn how you can support the Ending Child Marriage Project in Sierra Leone, please contact your personal Save the Children representative, or reach out to:
Senior Advisor, Individual Philanthropy
One Hundred Strong Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Network
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