Free the Slaves is excited to congratulate Catherine Russell on her new position as Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. In a joint letter sent to Russell last week, FTS and other groups expressed our eagerness to work with her to bring an end to the global problem of child marriage.
Child marriage affects millions of girls and their communities. An estimated 14 million girls are married before the age of 18 every year, according to the Girls Not Brides USA coalition. As a recently recognized form of slavery, child marriage harms young women and girls, as well as the economic development of their communities. Without child marriages, girls are more likely to stay in school, have fewer and healthier children, and contribute to the economic well-being of their families and communities.
During her confirmation hearing, Russell stressed the importance of addressing child marriage. In our joint letter to the ambassador, FTS emphasized that civil society organizations can be valuable partners and resources for her initiatives at the Office of Global Women’s Issues.
Free the Slaves has focused attention on the impact of child marriage and other forms of forced marriage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) through a groundbreaking investigative expose, Wives in Slavery: Forced Marriage in the Congo. This report chronicles firsthand accounts from forced marriage victims and survivors. Free the Slaves DRC Coordinator Jack Kahorha notes that forced marriage can be reduced by “strengthening the judicial system, improving schools and services, increasing support for community education, and scaling up practices to raise awareness about forced marriage.”
We are looking forward to working with Ambassador Russell to raise awareness and bring child marriage to an end.