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IMAGE: Empowering early married girls in India

Every year, 1.5 million girls in India marry before the age of 18. Many girls forced into early marriages rarely go to school. They live in poverty, often abused by their husbands. Our IMAGE programme empowers these girls and makes them stronger. We help them stand up for themselves. We offer them a place for professional skills training. We educate their communities to better protect them.

Empowering early married girls

Thangam Ponpandi

Country Manager India


At 230 million, India accounts for the world’s highest number of early married girls. In large parts of rural India, it is a custom for girls to marry before 18. Poverty, lack of awareness and tradition are some of the main reasons.

Marrying young has enormous disadvantages. The girls have children early and face severe health complications. They even discontinue their schooling. This keeps them from earning an income, making them financially dependent and in some cases forcing them to put up with domestic abuse. 

Girls from broken child marriages often end up on the street. They are highly vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

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Our IMAGE programme seeks to empower girls who have married young. We help them play bigger roles in their communities, to be seen more. Yet, we also ensure they stay safe and are no longer vulnerable to exploitation. We campaign for the abolishment of child marriages.


The acronym IMAGE stands for the Initiative for Married Adolescent Girls' Empowerment. Started in India, IMAGE aims to empower married girls, giving them a say. That way they can stand up and better care for themselves. 

IMAGE helps girls defend their rights. Through meetings, we raise awareness about health, nutrition and how to better care for their own children.

IMAGE focuses on the southern state of Karnataka, where 23% of Indian child brides live. In March 2021, 15,406 early married girls were identified during a so-called baseline survey by Terre des Hommes.

A safe place
Connecting with communities
Governments’ legal responsibility


Early married girls access education, health care (specifically sexual and reproductive health and rights) and are protected from gender-based violence. Families and community members are also sensitised on the ill effects of child marriage.

Skills development
Lobby and Advocacy
Awareness raising
Child and community participation
Movement building

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Children of India Foundation is the lead organisation of this programme.

Implementing partners include: VIDYANIKETHAN, Child Rights Trust (CRT) , PMSR , SEVAK - Society for Empowerment through Voluntary Action in Karnataka , REACH - Rural Environmental Awareness Community Help , Arpanam Trust

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