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India is winning its fight against Child Marriage : Global Childhood Report 2019

New Delhi | May | 29, 2019 :: The country has made remarkable progress and saved millions of girls from early marriage, states the latest Global Childhood Report 2019 by Save the Children. In an impressive gain made by India , the report highlights number of girls in the age group of 15-19 years who are currently married, is down 51 percent since 2000 (from 30 to 15 percent) and 63 percent since 1990. Had rates remained unchanged, there would be 9 million more married girls in India today, states the report.

As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 (2015-16), the percentage of women in the age group 20-24 married before age 18 years is 26.8 which was 47.4 in National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-3 (2005-06), thus showing decreasing trend. However even today child marriage prevalence is higher in rural areas as compared to urban areas as these figures are 14.1% and 6.9% for rural and urban areas respectively for age group 15-19 years . State-wise and economic variations in prevalence of child marriage also exist.

India, with its score on Childhood Index up 137 points, from 632 to 769, has also cut teen births by 63 percent since 2000 and 75 percent since 1990. This reduction has resulted in over 2 million fewer teen births in India now compared to 2000 (3.5 million vs. 1.4 million), meaning progress in India alone accounts for nearly three-quarters of the global reduction in adolescent births during this period.

Bidisha Pillai, CEO, Save the Children, said, “India’s gains on its indicators will surely have a multitude effect on the next generation to come. However, while we see progress as per the data in the national averages, we urgently need to focus on narrowing the gaps between rural and urban areas and between people living in different wealth profiles. Much remains to be done to reach the most deprived children who tend to be the furthest behind and are always the hardest to reach. Development policies and programmes formulated for children must ensure that there is special focus on children belonging to the vulnerable social groups, households in poverty, and children staying in states performing low on development indicators.”

A comparison of End of Childhood Index scores, that evaluates 176 countries on children’s access to health care, education, nutrition and protection from ‘childhood enders’ like child labour and child marriage, finds the overall situation for children has improved in 173 countries since 2000.

Studies suggest that global development goals would be reached faster with a focus on the most disadvantaged children and communities. A strong political leadership at the national level – among heads of government and key policymakers – has played a crucial role in helping millions more children survive and thrive. In addition, in sharp contrast to 2000, more national governments recognize the value of increased social investment, poverty reduction and have created enabling legislation that addresses these issues. Practitioners have found that coordinated investments in education, health, poverty reduction, water and sanitation (i.e., “whole systems” approaches) can have a much greater impact on improving the lives of children than interventions from individual sectors.

While progress has been remarkable, millions of children continue to be robbed of a childhood. We now need to continue to push to reach every last child and ensure they receive the childhood they deserve. Governments can and must do more to give every child the best possible start in life. Greater investment and more focus is needed if we are to see every child can enjoy a safe, healthy and happy childhood.

Save the Children celebrates 100 years of working for and with children. Today, it is India’s leading independent child rights NGO – with offices in 12 states. Save the Children believes that every child deserves the best chance for a bright future and that is why we are committed towards ensuring that children survive, learn and thrive. We run programmes in the remotest corners of India and urban areas to provide quality education and healthcare, protection from harm, abuse, and life-saving aid during emergencies to children. Globally, Save the Children is present in more than 120 countries and works to improve the lives of the most vulnerable children.

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