Remarks at a Meeting of the Third Committee on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children

Gregory McElwain
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 9, 2018


Thank you. Today we will highlight some U.S. activities that respond to the Secretary-General’s report on child, early, and forced marriage, CEFM.

We know that CEFM is a human rights issue that arises from and perpetuates inequality of women and girls. It contributes to economic hardship and leads to under-investment in girls’ educational and health care needs. CEFM threatens the potential for sustainable growth and development and fosters conditions that enable or exacerbate violence and insecurity, including domestic violence. It can produce devastating repercussions for a girl’s life, effectively ending her childhood. CEFM can force a girl into adulthood and motherhood before she is physically and mentally mature and before she completes her education, limiting her future options, depriving her of the chance to reach her full potential, and preventing her from contributing fully to her family and community.

The Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development support international organizations, non-governmental institutions, and others in the private sector that work to prevent and reduce CEFM.

The Secretary-General’s report notes that some member states integrate efforts to address CEFM into broader policy or protection frameworks. The United States is leading against CEFM globally and domestically. U.S. frameworks pertaining to CEFM include the “U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally” and “2017 Women, Peace, and Security Act.”

The Secretary-General’s report also talks about engaging with civil society and religious, traditional, and community leaders on CEFM, a strategy which the United States supports. In the Gambia, Embassy Banjul supports an annual educational residential retreat bringing together youth scholars from across the country. Last year’s retreat highlighted CEFM and limited educational opportunities for girls. Through a project called Koota Injerna, or “Come and Talk,” USAID is working in Northern Kenya to address both CEFM and female genital mutilation. Elders, religious leaders, and youth advocates take part in community dialogues to change the norms on CEFM and the value placed on girls. U.S. embassies and missions are also supporting programs engaging youth on pressing human rights issues, including CEFM.

One of the biggest challenges to women and girls vulnerable to or in early or forced marriages is a loss of economic or employment opportunities, but we know education can help fill the gap. From 2011 to 2017, nearly 70 million children received USAID-funded early grade reading instruction. 725,000 youth gained new or improved employment after participating in USAID-funded workforce development programs. 4.1 million children and youth in crisis or conflict countries who were previously out of school received access to education. In each of these cases, nearly half of the beneficiaries were female.

The Secretary-General’s report mentions training professionals to identify girls in CEFM situations and provide support to them, and emphasizes the importance of reforming harmful laws and policies. Through the State Department’s Voices Against Violence program, we are combating CEFM by providing emergency assistance funds to potential victims and victims of CEFM, and are providing support to local organizations in the Middle East to combat CEFM among Syrian and other refugees.

These are just some of our efforts to combat CEFM. The United States is committed to continuing such efforts to provide a brighter future for girls. Thank you for your attention.