If you live in an industrialized country, it may shock you to learn that worldwide, about 1,000 women die every day due to complications of pregnancy or childbirth. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in developing countries. In addition to the risk of death, each year about 10 million women suffer injury, infection, or disease following childbirth, according to World Health Organization (WHO). The physical and emotional toll can last a lifetime.
One of the main reasons for these needless deaths is the lack of access to quality healthcare. Another is maternal age. Forced child marriage often leads to early pregnancy and childbirth.
Forced Child Marriage
Research shows that getting married and becoming pregnant during her adolescence raises a girl’s chances of dying during childbirth when compared to women who marry and get pregnant later in life. Studies also show that access to family planning and spacing of pregnancies raises a woman’s chances of surviving pregnancy and childbirth.
In developing nations, one of every three girls is married before reaching her 18th birthday. One is seven is married by the age of 15. Gender inequality, poverty, and cultural practices are all factors in forced child marriage.
In addition to the health consequences of early pregnancy and childbirth, these girls are at greater risk of rape, and emotional and physical abuse. Girls who marry young are also more likely to stop going to school. Lack of education severely limits a girl’s potential to become self-sufficient, often leading to a lifetime cycle of poverty and dependence.
It takes more than access to quality healthcare to affect change. It also takes access to quality education. When girls are allowed to remain in school longer, they are less likely to marry early and more likely to delay pregnancy. Knowledge about their rights and about their reproductive health gives girls the power to make decisions about their own bodies and their own lives.
It’s Everybody’s Problem
Maternal deaths have a devastating effect on children, families, and society. According to The Millennium Development Goals Report, infants whose mothers die are 10 times more likely to die before their second birthday than children whose mothers survive childbirth. It’s not just a girl problem – it’s a societal problem with global consequences.
Ending the practice of early and forced child marriage and supporting education for girls is good for girls, good for families, and good for society.