VAÖ Austria
Side Event – Child, early and forced marriage – preventing forced marriages and empowering girls in an international context 19/3 10.00
Govt of Austria, UNODC
The girl child, Human rights of women, Education and training of women, Violence against women, Women and poverty, Institutional mechanisms, Women and health
SDG 1 – No Poverty, SDG3 – Good Health and Well-Being, SDG4 – Quality Education, SDG5 – Gender Equality, SDG 10 – Reduced Inequality, SDG17 – Partnerships to achieve the Goal
Human Trafficking (2016), Child Marriage (2016), Human Rights for Refugee and Refugee Women and Children (2019)
Forced marriage is a key issue for Women and Girls globally.
According to recent UNICEF estimates, 100 million girls are at risk of child marriage in the next decade, with an additional 10 million girls at risk as a result of the current pandemic. Against the background of these terrible numbers, the Side Event focussed on the causes and different manifestations of child, early and forced marriages, as well as the different approaches to prevention both on a national and international level.
This high level Side Event – led by the Austrian Minister for Women and the Executive Director of the UNODC – aimed to be a 'source of inspiration' for future prevention work in the context of forced marriages.

• Susanne Raab, Austrian Federal Minister for Women, Family, Youth and Integration
• Ghada Waly, Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime
• Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, Austria’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva
• Meltem Weiland, Head of the National Coordination Centre Against
Abduction and Forced Marriage, Austrian NGO “Orient Express”
• Mercy Akuot, Women’s rights activist, Social Worker, Kenya
• Silke Albert, Programme coordinator, UNODC
• Moderator: Marcus Bergmann, Deputy Director General, Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs

Amongst key points:
– the key role of Education was stressed by all panellists; girls must be kept in school for as long as possible; girls without education are most at risk; they need to know their rights and who to turn to. Empowerment through education is key.
– role played by 'family' is very complex. the stress on young girls is intense
– need to look at all the factors which put girls at disadvantage, make them vulnerable.
– conscious efforts need to be made to include women and girls in the law enforcement solutions to the problem – equal consideration / involvement of women in law-making; UNODC is striving to have more women involved because law enforcement is generally male dominated
– The entire social environment around those affected must be considered: the role of family members just as much as e.g. the role of educational institutions. Sustainable, long-term approaches are required.
– Forced marriage is not always a result of 'traditional practices' or poverty but in many cases results from organised crime / human trafficking. 'A lot of criminal energy is involved'.
– the role of NGOs was covered; best practices, in regard to prevention / raising awareness / helping victims / solutions oriented approach, were described.
Child and Forced Marriage (see the shocking numbers above!) is a very important issue for Women and Girls globally. This Side Event discussed the latest thinking around the subject, the many learnings from recent experience, the links to Organized Crime and Human Trafficking. It evidenced the importance with which the issue is taken by UNODC and the need for coordinated, international actions by Governments and law enforcement.

Continue and expand collaboration with UNODC on this issue. NFAs with particular interest and suggestions for collaboration should feel free to contact me for follow-up with either the UNODC or the NGO, Orient Express. Orient Express provides coordination in cases of abduction and repatriation; provides counselling, care and support for girls threatened by abduction and forced marriage; coaching, education and awareness raising. It handles the Nationwide Coordination Centre against Abduction and Forced Marriage.

Author: Elisabeth Francis

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