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UN Women

Opening Remarks by UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the plenary session of the Five Days of Violence Prevention Conference at Johannesburg, South Africa



"When I was 12-years old, my family organized a ceremony to transition my sisters and myself to become women," says Kakenya Ntaiya, a member of Kenya's Maasai tribe. "I was first because I was the oldest. I was told to open my knees, so I opened them.


In 2014, UNFPA launched Action for Adolescent Girls (AAG), a 12-country initiative aiming to empower some of the world's most marginalized girls, in partnership with the UN Foundation. One of its projects is in Udaipur district, India.


In India, 47 percent of women age 20-24 married before they were 18. In rural, tribal regions of Udaipur district, the rate of child marriage is 56 per cent. Few of the area's girls are enrolled in school, and most are expected to work on their homes and land from dawn to dusk - like their mothers and grandmothers before them.