UNGA: Child, Early and Forced Marriage and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Statement by Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein at the high-level side-event Child, Early and Forced Marriage and the COVID-19 Pandemic, 18 September 2020.

| New York

From the moment this meeting started and until it ends more than 2.000 girls will have been deprived of their childhood.

2000 girls married – 2000 childhoods lost.  

Harmful practices – such as child marriage, female genital mutilation and preference for sons – are serious manifestations of discrimination against girls.

We simply cannot accept it.

So let me thank the governments of Zambia and Canada for this opportunity to speak about it today.

As girls have their rights stolen from them – nations and villages are being deprived of their chance to create jobs and a better future for their citizens.  

If you force your daughter to marry – you force your nation to remain in poverty.

That is why Norway launched a strategy to eliminate harmful practices last year.

A development strategy.

We are stepping up the funds to eliminate the practices – and our work to strengthen the norms.

We support joint UNFPA/Unicef programs and work with civil society.


There are no quick fixes.

But we know a lot about what works.

Girls have to go to school.

Parents in poverty must have access to other survival strategies than marrying off their loved ones.

Stakeholders in the countries concerned must have a dialogue on deep-seated discriminatory norms.


Covid-19 has indeed made this work more difficult.

The most urgent step is to support initiatives that will allow children to return to school as soon as possible.

School closures deprive girls of a very important protective environment.

They disrupt access to sexual and reproductive health information and services

In many cases they disrupt access to the only daily meal.

They also neutralize our sharpest tool for creating jobs and eradicating extreme poverty this decade: Education.    

It has been predicted that 13 million more girls – not less – will become child brides due to the pandemic.

My hope is that we can mobilize the resources needed to prove this prediction wrong.

Thank you.