The last several years has seen an abundance of attention focused on the education of – and investment in- girls and women to end cycles of poverty and improve the health of communities. Think Nike’s “Girl Effect” and Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book "Half the Sky".

Yet one of the greatest threats to a girl’s health and well-being is the traditional practice of child marriage. In fact, every three seconds a girl under the age of 18 is married, usually to a much older man, according to the children’s charity Plan UK. That’s 10 million child marriages each year, and over 25,000 a day.

Jennifer Buffett, President and Co-Chair of the NoVo Foundation, understands the importance of focusing on girls and women. Every additional year a girl stays in school raises her future income by 10 to 20 percent- a hugely profitable investment especially when you consider that girls and women are likely to invest 90 percent of their income on their families compared to a man's 30 to 40 percent.

Nonetheless, millions of “the most marginalized, voiceless population on the planet are married off each year”, says Buffett. “These are the girls teetering on the edge.”

Which is why The Elders, a group of global leaders founded in 2007 by former South African President Nelson Mandela, established a campaign called “Girls Not Brides: the Global Partnership to End Child Marriage,” and NoVo Foundation, Nike Foundation and the Ford Foundation offered support.

Buffett chose to focus on the issue of child brides because she felt it was a practice that could be tackled. “It’s doable in a generation if we are smart,” she said.

How? By explaining to communities that the practice of child marriage is dangerous to young girls. And that if young girls are given the opportunity to get an education they often will improve their lives -- and those of their families and communities as well. When communities see how it benefits them, says Buffett, they change. “This is a traditional practice, not a cultural one,” explained Buffett. “Families aren’t trying to hurt their daughters a lot of times. Often there are serious economic reasons for it.”

Buffett has seen with her own eyes the impact of outlawing child marriage in communities. In rural Ethiopia she visited a village where a girl found out she would be married at four years old. By eight she was married. Now she is 24 and has several children. “The last thing I would have guessed is that she went through something like this at four years old,” Buffett explained. “Now this 24 year old has learned and she won’t marry her daughter young. That’s why this is doable in a generation. Mothers want their daughters to wait. And girls want to be girls and want the chance to go to school.”