How to Pray for Child Brides on International Day of the Girl
In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul writes: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her". However, child marriage departs from God's design for marriage. Instead of mutual respect, love, and honour, child marriage neglects a girl's well-being, causing her to lose her childhood and opportunities to realise her God-given potential.
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18. That's 22 girls every minute. When a family's resources are strained by poverty, many girls are married off as early as when they first reach puberty. Child brides are then pressured to have children quickly. Cognitively, these girls are harmed by the social isolation and domestic violence during critical phases of their growth and development. physically, they can suffer pregnancy complications due to underdeveloped wombs. These experiences can have a large adverse impact on a girl's mental and emotional health. Additionally, childbirth and pregnancies are the leading causes of death worldwide for girls aged 15 to 19, as reported by the World Health Organisation. Child brides thus lose the freedom they once enjoyed and the time to develop socially, emotionally, and psychologically, in addition to facing the risk of physical harm and death.
The COVID-19 crisis further exacerbates this fragile situation. Most of the 13 million child marriages predicted by the United Nations Population Fund will occur in the years immediately following the crisis. Child marriages are most prevalent in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Afghanistan and the settlements of refugees and internally displaced persons. In these settings, child marriages are the consequences of finanical pressures, food insecurity, and cultural norms. The COVID-19 situation has caused large-scale school closures, additional economic stress, and other harrowing after-effects. Parents face challenging dilemmas, especially in India, Afghanistan and refugees settings like Syria. They have to decide between greater financial security for their families, or their daughters having a childhood and education. However, many parents living in these contexts are still unaware of the grevious consequences of child marriage, and resort to it as a negative coping mechanism. In these parts of the world, World Vision combats child marriages by connecting vulnerable families to income-generation support assistance, as well as educating children and their caregivers on child protection and child rights. Through training sessions and advocacy programs, World Vision also educates government authorities and equips local leaders to influence their communities and create environments where girls and women feel safe and can thrive.
(pictured: Suraiya, 19, is a former Child Forum member who was empowered with knowledge about her rights as a minor through the Forum's activities.)
Pray for Child Forums and child activism, which are faciliated by World Vision in partnership with local children and youth, to be effective against child rights violations like child marriage by God's strength, despite cultural pressure and the COVID-19 situation.
Pray for grace and wisdom upon the child protection teams at World Vision Bangladesh, that they may continue serving boldly as the Lord's hands and feet to meet the needs of child brides and children vulnerable to child marriage.
Amidst ongoing political tumult and violence, pray that the rights and safety of girls and women may continue to be respected, and that God may make a way for them to go to school and to continue working safely, without fear of persecution or discrimination.
In the face of drought, decades-long conflicts, and COVID-19, pray that families may have a long- term vision of their daughters education and experience God's protection and providence amidst multiple crises.
(pictured: from left to right: Dhanam and her children, Surjitha, Supriya, and Nithisha, sit outside their house in India.)
Pray that young brides and mothers may experience God's comfort and justice, strength and wisdom, as they seek to live in peace with their families in households troubled by domestic violence and conflicts with in-laws.
Amidst school closures and economic stress, pray for families in India to have wisdom in bringing up their daughters and to persevere in not succumbing to the pressures of child marriage.
(pictured: Pinky, a student advocate, stands in a corridor of a school in Nepal where she speaks to peers about child rights.)
Pray for Nepalese fathers, caregivers and community leaders to have transformed mindsets about gender and the courage and influence to stop child marriages.
Pray for World Vision's educational programmes within the community to be effective in helping families and girls understand the detrimental effects of child marriages.
Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
Pray that refugees and IDPs may know God as their fortress and security, as they face violence, poverty and poor living conditions daily that drive parents to choose child marriage as a way out of their desperate circumstances.
Pray for child brides in refugee and IDP settlements who grapple with early pregnancies, domestic violence, and the loss of educational opportunities. May they come to know the Lord as their helper and redeemer.
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