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Child marriage rates are doubling – Melissa Doyle touches on why for International Day of the Girl

''It's frightening.''
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Since the COVID-19 pandemic, child marriage rates have more than doubled according to the non-profit organisation World Vision Australia.

On International Day of the Girl – which falls on October 11, 2023 – Melissa Doyle is teaming up with other well-known stars to share the stories of the world’s most vulnerable girls.

Melissa is sharing Leon’s story.

(Image: World Vision)

“International Day of the Girl is a really important day to actually stop for a moment and take stock of the circumstances that young women are facing and what we can actually do for them and how we can support them,” she says.

The World Vision movement, 1000 Voices for 1000 Girls is a “rallying cry” after a terrifying increase of young girls being forced into marriage, removed from school, and placed at a higher risk of violence.

According to World Vision Australia, 12 million girls under 18 years old are getting married per year. So why was COVID the turning point where child marriages increased?

“We’ve seen massive rises in the number of families facing poverty and not being able to access some of the support services that they previously had, and even education,” she says.

1000 Voices for 1000 Girls campaign also includes Samantha Harris; Michelle Payne; Sunday Aryang; Liz Ellis; and Pallavi Sharda.

(Image: World Vision)

“So they’ve got to make a decision – are we going to feed the family or are we going to send our daughter to school? A daughter can be married off. There’s been this massive surge also in rates of violence of girls being forced into situations and sexual activities they don’t want to be a part of.

“It’s frightening.”

While education can be perceived as a task for many people, but for many of these young girls, adequate education could change their life.

World Vision Australia’s campaign, 1000 Voices for 1000 Girls allows big issues to be broken down into individual stories, something of which Melissa believes to be more “powerful.”

Melissa visited Kenya in 2022.

(Image: Instagram)

Melissa is sharing Leon’s story, a young girl who discovered she had rights and child marriage didn’t have to be her fate after gaining proper education.

“It’s simply knowing that there are places that these girls can seek help and can seek support. Yes, that probably sounds simpler than it really is. But it’s a step,” she says.

“Giving teachers in school knowledge and letting families know that there are alternatives… often if a family is facing extreme poverty, taking that girl out of school is the first thing they do.

“So how do we support them through that if [they think] it’s the only thing they can do in order to support their family is to marry their daughter.”

Mel revealed statistics show the cycle is breakable if the girl stays in school, as she will then carry this mentality if she starts her own family.

By sponsoring a child, it doesn’t just make a difference for just the singular child. But rather creates more support and resources for their family, the community, and their school peers.

In 2022, Mel visited Kenya where she met a group of women who learned how to generate an income by purchasing chickens and selling their eggs. Something this simple, allowed the women to provide for their families.

Without education, the cycle continues and yet another young girl’s innocence is stolen.

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