HOW CAN WE END CHILD MARRIAGE?

In recent years child marriage has gained increasing prominence on international and national development agendas. Today, we have a unique opportunity to act on this momentum and accelerate our efforts to help change the lives of girls and young women all over the world.

Ending child marriage requires work across all sectors and at all levels. It requires us to understand the complex drivers behind the practice in different contexts and adapt our interventions accordingly.

SCOEN is working out theories to demonstrate the range of approaches needed to address child marriage, and crucially highlight that everyone has a role to play. Within which stresses the importance of long-term, sustainable interventions that are coordinated, well-resourced and the result of shared learning.

These involves four categories where the majority of our efforts are aligned: empowering girls, mobilising families and communities, providing services and establishing and implementing laws and policies. Ending child marriage requires work which is mutually reinforcing across these areas.

These four strategy areas are used to illustrate the types of effective interventions that are helping to prevent child marriage and support married girls all over the world.

EMPOWER GIRLS

Working directly with girls to give them the opportunity to build skills and knowledge, understand and exercise their rights and develop support networks, is an important part of our efforts to end child marriage.

Using an empowerment approach can lead to positive outcomes for girls and their families by supporting girls to become agents of change, helping them envisage what alternative roles could look like in their communities and ultimately helping them to forge their own pathway in life.

SAFE SPACE PROGRAMMES

Safe space programmes which offer a varied curriculum covering life skills, health and financial literacy can provide girls with an opportunity to build their skills, learn and meet friends and mentors in an informal setting and learn about the services they can access in their community.

Safe space programmes can successfully build girls’ self-confidence, agency and self-efficacy, which they need to thrive. They can provide a good alternative for girls who do not have access to formal education such as married girls. Having a safe regular meeting place allows girls to meet with peers and share experiences which can reduce their sense of isolation and vulnerability.

EMPOWER GIRLS

Working directly with girls to give them the opportunity to build skills and knowledge, understand and exercise their rights and develop support networks, is an important part of our efforts to end child marriage.

Using an empowerment approach can lead to positive outcomes for girls and their families by supporting girls to become agents of change, helping them envisage what alternative roles could look like in their communities and ultimately helping them to forge their own pathway in life.

SAFE SPACE PROGRAMMES

Safe space programmes which offer a varied curriculum covering life skills, health and financial literacy can provide girls with an opportunity to build their skills, learn and meet friends and mentors in an informal setting and learn about the services they can access in their community.

Safe space programmes can successfully build girls’ self-confidence, agency and self-efficacy, which they need to thrive. They can provide a good alternative for girls who do not have access to formal education such as married girls. Having a safe regular meeting place allows girls to meet with peers and share experiences which can reduce their sense of isolation and vulnerability.

MOBILISE FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES

Many families and communities see child marriage as a deeply rooted practice which has been part of their culture for generations. Whether the practice is cited as cultural or religious, it is often driven by inequitable gender norms such as an emphasis on protecting a girls’ (or her family’s) honour by controlling her sexuality.

For change to happen, the values and norms which support the practice of child marriage need to shift. Working with families and the wider community to raise awareness of the harmful consequences of child marriage can change attitudes and reduce the acceptance among those who make the decision to marry girls as children.

WORKING WITH MEN AND BOYS

Working with men and boys is a critical part of our efforts to end child marriage. In many communities it is the men who hold the power and make the decisions. Interventions targeting fathers, brothers, husbands and future husbands are important in helping men and boys reflect on the status quo and see the benefits of a community which values and supports girls and women to fulfil their potential.

RELIGIOUS AND TRADITIONAL LEADERS

Religious and traditional leaders, too, have the potential to play a key role in speaking out against child marriage and changing community attitudes. In communities where religious and traditional leaders play a prominent role in decision-making or influencing the prevailing norms, targeted interventions can support them to become positive advocates for change who fully understand the implications of child marriage for girls and their families.