WASHINGTON: The U.S. has announced $4.8 million to fund projects in over half a dozen countries, including India, to end child and forced marriages.
"We know the fight against child marriage is the fight against extreme poverty," U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Raj Shah said.
"That's why USAID has put women and girls at the center of our efforts to answer President (Barack) Obama's call to end extreme poverty in two generations. It's a commitment that reflects a legacy of investment in girls--in their education, in their safety, in their health, and in their potential," Shah said.
In India, the government began implementing a conditional cash transfer programme in 1994, which provided families with a small payment upon the birth of a girl as well as a bond redeemable if the girl remained unmarried at the age of 18, USAID said.
A USAID-funded evaluation will provide one of the first impact evaluations in this area to assess the effectiveness of the programme in preventing child, early, and forced marriage, the statement said.
The announcement builds on larger support for girls by USAID and the Department of State through an estimated $800 million in basic education; $164 million to combat gender-based violence; and $48 million to end human trafficking in this fiscal year.
The programmes support implementation of "Ending Child Marriage & Meeting the Needs of Married Children: The USAID Vision for Action" to prevent and respond to child, early, and forced marriage in regions, countries, and communities where interventions are most needed and most likely to achieve results.
By partnering with local institutions and community groups, USAID is supporting the voices of change agents at the national, local, and community levels seeking to change attitudes and motivations that perpetuate the practice of child, early, and forced marriage, which affects an estimated 10 million girls each year, it said.
According to a UN report, India has the sixth highest prevalence of child marriage in the world with one in every three child bride living in the country.