Girl Summit to tackle child marriage and female genital mutiliation

Girls' education

Film star Freida Pinto uses the Youth Advocacy Toolkit in a preparation session Picture: Plan International/Because I Am a Girl

The first Girl Summit will take place tomorrow in London. It will bring together heads of state, charities and community leaders and aims to end child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) within a generation.

Jointly organised by the United Kingdom Government and UNICEF, Home Secretary Theresa May and Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening will host the event. UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy PM Nick Clegg are also seaking at the summit.

UNICEF says that around the world 14million children are not at school as a result of being married off as child brides – a number that is rising in many countries. In Iraq laws are being planned which would make it legal for a child of nine to be married.

Mauritania has been at the centre of allegations of FGM to make it possible for girls of eight and nine to be married. In Yemen, where the United Nations estimates that more than 50% of girls are married before they turn 18, there is also still no minimum age.

The 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are Niger 75%, Chad and Central African Republic 68%, Bangladesh 66%, Guinea 63%, Mozambique 56%, Mali 55%, Burkina Faso and South Sudan 52%, and Malawi 50%.

One secure way to prevent child marriage is to deliver the right of every child to be at school. A girl with some education is not only unlikely to be married at eight, nine or 10 but is also six times less likely to be married by 18.

The practice of FGM, which has been illegal in the UK since 1985, had 4000 registered cases in the country last year. However, some estimates based on 2001 census data claim more than 60,000 girls may have been subjected to the procedure. In Somalia and Egypt 97% of girls will undergo FGM. The practice has been decreed a human rights violation by the UN.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg will address the summit and will unveil that new training is to be given to teachers, doctors and social workers in the UK to help them to identify and assist girls at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM). New guidance about FGM will be part of compulsory training in public sector organisations.

Workshops, talks, panel discussion and an exhibition of award winning photographs by journalist Stephanie Sinclair entitled Too Young To Wed will also take place.

Film star Freida Pinto was at a preparation session for the summit, where she used the Youth Advocacy Toolkit produced by A World at School, Plan International and the Youth Advocacy Group of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative.

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