Women and Foreign Policy: Ending Early and Forced Marriage

Date: Thursday, September 24, 2015
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. EDT
Location: The U.S. Department of State

For girls under 18, marriage can be a life-changing event in all the wrong ways.

Once a girl gets married, she’s much less likely to go to school and much more likely to become pregnant and be at risk for gender-based violence, HIV/AIDS, and other health issues.

This is reality for far too many girls around the world. An estimated 14.2 million girls are married every year before they reach the age of 18.

And girls aren’t the only ones who are affected. Early and forced marriage can also fuel harmful cycles of poverty, illiteracy, and health risks in families and communities.

On such a large scale, the effects of early and forced marriage stand in the way of human rights, global development goals, and U.S. foreign policy and national security interests.

That’s why, on September 24, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Cathy Russell convened experts, activists, academics, development practitioners, and policy makers to discuss what can be done to end early and forced marriage, from programming and research to policy and diplomacy.


The event also featured scenes from the film Difret, which was introduced by the filmmaker. From executive producer Angelina Jolie, this powerful film tells the tale of a girl and a female lawyer who take on the Ethiopian tradition of “telefa”, or marriage by abduction.

Women and Foreign Policy: Ending Early and Forced Marriage was the inaugural event in a series of meetings hosted by Ambassador Russell. The Women and Foreign Policy series looks at the relationship between gender inequality and foreign policy, with a focus on solutions and best practices.

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