BBC 100 Women Documentary: 12 Million Girls Follows Michelle Obama, Melinda Gates And Amal Clooney’s Visit To Malawi For Campaign To Combat Child Marriage

By BBC World Service
Image Credit: BBC 100 Women
Image Credit: BBC 100 Women

For a special documentary as part this year’s BBC 100 Women season, BBC Gender and Identity correspondent Megha Mohan and director Yousef Eldin visited Malawi, alongside three of the world’s most high-profile humanitarians, Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney, and Melinda French Gates, to meet the girls at risk from the global issue of child marriage, and some of the grassroots organisations trying to stop it.

12 Million Girls, airs on the BBC News channel and will be available on BBC iPlayer (UK only) from Saturday 9 December.

The visit follows a collaborative effort launched in 2022 by The Obama Foundation’s Girls Opportunity Alliance, the Gates Foundation, and the Clooney Foundation for Justice, aimed at ending child marriage.

Michelle Obama, attorney, author and one of the BBC 100 Women for 2023 said: “If we let one thing slip, it all just starts to unravel. In the United States we're dealing with a rollback in reproductive rights, things that people thought they could take for granted... And a lot of it is because of the devaluation of women, and the belief that women don't have choice and power over their own being. That's what's happening here.”

Ulanda Mtamba, Malawi's country director for AGE Africa (Advancing Girls' Education in Africa) and one of the BBC 100 Women for 2023 said:We believe that when we educate just one girl, that one girl can be able to change her community and her society. By educating a girl we’d be able to break the cycle of poverty because this girl, be assured, will be able to transform her community, educate more girls and be a role model.”

Amal Clooney, human rights lawyer and one of the BBC 100 Women for 2023 said: “What's the point of having a beautiful constitution that protects girls from child marriage if the girls who are the victims of this don't know about it. So, we formed a network of mobile legal aid clinics that go out in a community and say to girls these are your rights, and if you need a lawyer for free to protect you, that's what we are here to provide.”

Statistics on child marriage:

  • Every year, 12 million girls are married before they reach the age of 18, according to the UN children's fund, Unicef.

  • About 650 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday

  • South Asia is home to the largest number of child brides with more than 40% of the global total, followed by sub-Saharan Africa with 18%.

  • Worldwide, about 21% of girls are married in childhood, according to aid organisation World Vision.

  • Child marriage rates have declined in Asia and Africa over the past decade, but in Latin America and the Caribbean there has been no progress for 25 years, according to NGO Girls Not Brides.

12 Million Girls airs on BBC News on Saturday 9 December at 02:30 and 15:30 GMT and Sunday 10 December at 09:30, 18:30 GMT, and will be available on BBC iPlayer (UK only).

Read more about Megha and Yousef’s trip to Malawi here . For more information on the special content produced for this year’s BBC 100 Women season, see our press release here , and find out who made the BBC 100 Women 2023 list here .