While it should have no place in the 21st century, child marriage is a very real problem in our world today. The practice is still widespread in developing countries. Unicef estimates that 21 per cent of young women worldwide were children when they got married. Girls who marry before the age of 18 are at greater risk of domestic violence. Early or forced pregnancy can have severe consequences. They include high rates of death during childbirth and obstetric fistula: a terrible condition that often condemns sufferers to a lifetime of infection, pain and isolation. Women who marry young are often denied education and economic opportunity. This traps them in a cycle of poverty. On October 10 in New York, the fashion house Gucci premiered an animated short film it had commissioned to raise awareness of the issue. SITARA explores the theme of child marriage through a young girl called Pari. As she dreams of becoming a pilot, her father plans her wedding. The film was screened on the eve of the UN’s International Day of the Girl. STYLE Edit: Gucci’s Ultrapace sneakers take us back to the future Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy directed the production. She has won Oscars for her documentaries about honour killings and acid attacks on women in her native Pakistan. “Young girls everywhere still face considerable hurdles in achieving their dreams,” she said. “For me, SITARA is more than a film. It is a movement that we want to start across the world, that encourages parents to invest in their girls’ dreams, freeing their daughters from the burdens of early marriage.” Gucci has also launched the #LetGirlsDream campaign to support two NGOs combating child marriage. One of them is the UK-based Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, which campaigned to be included in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. The other is Equality Now, whose lawyers have been pressuring governments to enact and uphold laws that prevent child marriage. “Child marriage is a practice that needs to be relegated to history,” said Yasmeen Hassan, Equality Now’s global executive director. “This practice violates girls’ human rights, increases their vulnerabilities and curbs their potential. Governments must enforce laws against child marriage. And all of us need to unite against this practice.” STYLE Edit: Gucci gets philosophical with Cruise 2020 collection The philanthropic arm of Gucci behind #LetGirlsDream is called Chime for Change. Since its launch in 2013, it has raised US$15 million to support projects for women’s empowerment and gender equality in 89 countries. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .