Kendeda Fund Awards $23 Million to Help End Child Marriage in South Asia

The Kendeda Fund has awarded grants totaling $23 million to American Jewish World Service and CARE USA in support of efforts to end child marriage in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, the Guardian reports.

AJWS and CARE USA were awarded $15.3 million and $7.7 million, respectively, to expand their support of local efforts to promote women's and girls' rights and end child marriage. AJWS, which currently funds eighteen organizations in India, will use the grant to support additional grassroots advocacy groups and social change organizations working to address the economic and social causes that result in child brides. "We work to build girls' aspirations, promote girls' ideas of themselves when they don't have aspirations, and engage with key decision makers — parents, teachers, and religious leaders," said Javid Syed, Asia program officer at AJWS.

CARE USA, which already is working to prevent gender-based violence and support survivors of such violence in Nepal by mobilizing child marriage eradication committees, solidarity groups, schools, and local businesses, will extend its assistance to NGOs in Bangladesh.

The Kendeda Fund, which has long been focused on sustainability issues, added a girls' rights portfolio in 2012. According to the Guardian, child marriage rates in Bangladesh (68.7 percent), Nepal (56.1 percent), and India (50 percent) are among the highest in the world.

"During a recent trip to India with American Jewish World Service, it became clear to me that the practice of child marriage is deeply connected to broader issues of sexual and gender rights," said Dena Kimball, an advisor to the fund. "It is both harmful to girls and dramatically diminishes their future opportunities. We know that girls who marry early are more likely to drop out of school, to suffer health problems, to live in poverty, and to experience gender-based violence. These same girls are more likely to either die in childbirth or lose their newborn infants."