Imagine growing up in a place where, as a child, you’re more likely to walk down the aisle than into a secondary school classroom.
That’s the sad reality for girls in the following 26 countries, where data reveal they have a greater chance of getting married before age 18 than enrolling in secondary school, let alone completing it. For them, “for better or worse” becomes overwhelmingly worse. “For richer, for poorer” is decidedly poorer. They are, in essence, being forced to take vows of poverty. As a result, their countries are saddled with a devastating deficit — in opportunities for girls.
We count down these 26 countries, from those with the smallest such deficit to those with the largest. In some of these places, communities are making great strides in delaying marriage for girls and opening more doors to quality education. They offer hope — and may not be on this list much longer. Other countries, however, show little progress. They are home to some of the most difficult living circumstances on earth, especially for girls.
Read our full report to learn more about the causes of child marriage, the barriers to girls’ education and the steps you can take to help shorten — and one day eliminate — this list. Or, take action now, so that all girls, regardless of where they are born, can reach their full potential.