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Child Marriage

Underage with an ID to prove it

Lucia Hanmer's picture
Rubi’s Story: Exulted, Rubi ran home. As fast as her fifteen-year-old legs could carry her, she ran, exam in hand, excited to share the results with her family. The results, she believed, would shape her fate.
 

 
Yet when she got home, the elation dissipated with the dust. Her father had his own news to deliver. She would not be going to secondary school, as she had worked for, as she had wanted. Instead, she would be getting married, an economic necessity for Rubi’s family as well as a common practice in Bangladesh. Early marriage is on the decline in Bangladesh, but high rates continue to prevail; 59 percent of all girls are married by age 18 and 16 percent by age 15.
 
The Advocates: When little, Rubi had been denied access to primary school because her parents hadn’t registered her at birth. Rubi’s mother got her daughter a birth certificate, and with that, she was admitted to school, a place where she thrived.
 
At 15, smart, ambitious Rubi did not want to get married. So she found advocates in her teachers and Plan International, a child rights organization. With their support, Rubi went to the Union Council Office where the chairman informed her parents about the legal ramifications of child marriage. She was not old enough and her birth certificate proved it. She was underage. So Rubi went back to school and on to graduate at 18.
 
Child Marriage: Rubi’s story highlights the global problem of child marriage, its impact on girls, and the role of identification in empowering girls to prevent it. Child marriage remains pervasive: every year, 15 million girls are married before 18.

Research rigor and risks: Investigating gender-based violence in the European refugee crisis

Throughout the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, we celebrate the strides made since the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991. Despite significant advances in programming and policy, gender-based violence remains pervasive, especially in crisis-affected populations. The ongoing conflict in Syria and the risks of gender-based violence for Syrian refugees challenge us as a global community to focus our attention and intensify our efforts and activism against gender-based violence.
 
Photo: Women and Health Alliance (WAHA) International

The 16 Days of Activism campaign also allows us to reflect on the important role of research in activism. Without rigorous research, activism against gender-based violence may be misguided or misaligned with individual or community perceptions and needs.
 
What is meant by rigorous research?

Rigorous research has been defined as research that applies the appropriate research tools to investigate a set of stated objectives. While some researchers may argue that quantitative research methodologies generate more rigorous data, using this definition we can see that qualitative research methodologies can also generate rigorous data to inform programming, policy and activism.

Our project, funded by the World Bank Group and Sexual Violence Research Initiative Development Marketplace for Innovations to Prevent Gender-Based Violence, aims to do just that—generate rigorous data using qualitative research methodologies to better understand the gender, social, and cultural norms that contribute to intimate partner violence among Syrian refugees. Women and Health Alliance (WAHA) International in collaboration with academic and organizational partners in Turkey and Greece will collect data using focus group discussions and participatory action learning activities in order to inform future interventions targeting intimate partner violence among displaced populations.

Making sense of child marriage in Lebanon

Susan Bartels's picture
Child marriage has emerged as a negative coping strategy among Syrian families who have been forcibly displaced to Lebanon as a result of Syria’s ongoing conflict. Child marriage has profound implications, not just for the girl and for her physical, psychological and socioeconomic well-being, but also for her children, her family, her community, and for global development more broadly. To date, there has been very little research to identify effective interventions for addressing child marriage in humanitarian settings. With the support of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) and the World Bank Group, Queen’s University and the ABAAD Resource Center for Gender Equality are investigating factors that contribute to child marriage in the Syrian refugee crises. Participatory approaches will be used to identify community-based strategies that would offer Syrian families options other than to marry their young daughters prematurely.

Global Impact of Child Marriage
 
Photo: Colleen Davison

Child marriage is a global issue of enormous importance. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 142 million girls will marry young worldwide between 2011 and 2020 and an additional 151 million girls will marry young in the following decade, equating to 39,000 girls marrying prematurely each day. Child brides are at high risk for early pregnancy and labor complications including preterm labor, obstructed or prolonged labor, and maternal death. Infants born to young mothers are also at greater risk of low birth weight, stillbirth, and neonatal death. In fact, this form of gender-based violence (GBV) is thought to have contributed to the lack of progress towards meeting UN Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, calling for a two-thirds reduction in the under-five mortality and a three-fourths reduction in maternal deaths, respectively. 
 
The impact of marrying young extends well beyond health consequences. As child brides assume the responsibilities of wives, they are most often unable to continue their formal education thus limiting their literacy and future earning potential. Additionally, young girls are often married to older men and this age discrepancy contributes to unhealthy inequalities within the marriage, often compounding gender inequalities that impair women’s ability to negotiate shared decision making. Thus, experiences of physical, psychological, and sexual violence are more prevalent among girls who marry as children than among those who enter into marriage as consenting adults. 

Child Marriage and the Syrian Crisis

Evidence suggests that rates of child marriage have increased in the Middle East due to the Syrian conflict and the resultant displacement. Increased child marriage during conflict and displacement is not unique to the Syrian crisis as prior evidence suggests that vulnerability to early marriage is heightened during conflicts and natural disasters. Economic necessity and a desire to protect girls from harassment and sexual violence at the hands of strangers are thought to be underlying contributors to child marriage but there are undoubtedly other unrecognized factors related to cultural and social norms which have been impacted from experiences of trauma and loss due to the conflict. 
 
To provide new insight into the societal, economic, security, religious and psychosocial factors contributing to child marriage among Syrian refugees in Lebanon, we used an innovative mixed qualitative/quantitative data capture instrument, Cognitive Edge’s SenseMaker. With electronic data entry on tablets, SenseMaker offers the capability to efficiently collect and analyze large quantities of data in the form of self-interpreted micro-narratives. Because participants interpret their own narratives, researcher interpretation bias is reduced and the stories can be directly accessed to contextualize the quantitative data, which derives from participants’ interpretation of the experiences shared in their narratives.
 
Example of the project’s SenseMaker data output.
Each blue dot represents how one participant
responded to the question asked. Red circles
identify clustered responses and percentages
refer to how many people responded in each cluster.

In July and August 2016, a team of 12 trained Syrian/Lebanese interviewers electronically collected 1,422 self-interpreted micro-narratives from 1,346 unique participants on the experiences of Syrian girls in Lebanon. The SenseMaker interviews were conducted with married and unmarried Syrian girls, Syrian mothers and fathers, as well as married and unmarried Syrian/Lebanese men and a variety of community leaders in Beirut, Beqaa, and Tripoli. Data management and preliminary analysis were performed by QED Insight and results will be further analyzed in Tableau, which facilitates pattern recognition across the various subgroups through disaggregation of the data by various demographic characteristics as well as other contextualizing factors such as length of time spent in Lebanon, emotional tone of the story, etc. In doing so, researchers can ascertains patterns in stories to obtain insights that present alternative and diverse points of view.
 
This SenseMaker data will be presented back to Syrian community members in January and their interpretation of the results will be solicited. Importantly, these facilitated focus group discussions will also serve as a medium through which Syrian communities can self-identify local strategies that are feasible and culturally appropriate to address the issue of child marriage at the local level. This approach fosters community resilience and will help to empower affected families to identify elements of change, which will ultimately be more sustainable and more effective. Through our partnership with the World Bank and SVRI, the community data analysis and local strategies will be brought to the attention of a wide range of policy makers and donors who are increasing their investment and commitment in GBV prevention, response and mitigation based on solid, participatory and innovative analytical work.

For more information, contact susanabartels@gmail.com or saja.michael@abaadmena.org
 

Afghan teen rapper sings and advocates to end child marriage

Bassam Sebti's picture


At first she looks like any bride: wearing a white wedding dress with her face covered with the wedding veil and carrying a bridal bouquet. Except that she is no ordinary bride. She is being sold.

As she removes her veil from her face, her forehead appears marked with a barcode. Her left eye is badly bruised and a big scratch on her cheek is as red as a war wound.

The girl in the music video “Brides for Sale” is portrayed by Sonita Alizadeh, an Afghan teen rapper who sings in the video about the ordeal many girls in Afghanistan go through when are sold by their families to marry at an early age in return of money.

But why is she singing about this issue?

The hefty price of child marriage

Quentin Wodon's picture
Girls take part in a safe space session in Zambia, where they learn about how and why to avoid
early marriage. Over this past decade, some 140 million girls, most living in the developing world,
have married before the age of 18. Photo by: Jessica Lea / DfID / CC BY

Child marriage. It’s a phrase that was barely uttered or understood in the global development community even just 10 years ago. Yet over this past decade, some 140 million girls, most living in the developing world, have married before the age of 18, forcing them to drop out of school and become pregnant before their bodies and minds are ready. Child marriage may also lead to increased intimate partner violence, restricted mobility, limited access to families or friends, and limited ability to engage in their community’s and country’s development.

Campaign Art: Wedding vows of poverty

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Although illegal in most countries, child marriage remains a common practice. Globally, about 39,000 girls are forced to marry each day; that's another child marriage every 2 seconds.  It is often hidden from public discussion, as young girls and boys are often married early to alleviate their family’s financial burden or in hopes of securing a better future for them.  While both genders are affected, child marriage disproportionately affects young females. 
 
Few child brides stay in the classroom, which is unfortunate not only because these girls lose out on an aspect of self-development and exploration, but also because the loss of educational achievement prevents them from acquiring more lucrative jobs, thereby improving their household income. The World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development drew attention to the fact that the exclusion of girls and women from school results in a less educated workforce, inefficient allocation of labor, lost productivity, and consequently diminished progress in economic development. It also identified a multiplier effect:  better educated women tend to be healthier, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their children, all of which eventually improve the well-being of all individuals and can lift households out of poverty. These benefits also transmit across generations, as well as to communities at large.

Nevertheless, in 26 countries, girls are more likely to be married before age 18 than enrolled in secondary school, according to a report, “Vows of Poverty”, from CARE.  The report was released to mark International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11, 2015, and provides an overview of the forces driving young girls into marriage and out of school while also describing what can be done to reverse those trends.  The following video is part of their campaign end child marriage for girls worldwide.
 
Vows Of Poverty


Campaign Art: Ending child marriage

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

It’s been 20 years since 189 countries signed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, committing themselves to embracing gender equality, and 104 years since the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911, but child marriage is still a common practice in many developing countries. 

Child marriage, defined by UNICEF as a marriage or informal union before age 18, is a violation of human rights. It is a reality for both boys and girls but disproportionately affects young females. Globally, more than 700 million women alive today were married as before age 18, and more than 1 in 3 – or about 250 million – were married before age 15.

The following video is a partnership between UNICEF and trap artist RL Grime and tells the story of child marriage through the eyes of one young girl in Chad.  Chad has the third highest rate of child marriage in the world, behind Niger and Central African Republic, and 68% of its girls are married as children.  Unlike many other countries, the practice is prevalent in both wealthy and less wealthy households.  Child marriage compromises the development of girls because it interrupts schooling, limits career and vocational opportunities, and places girls at increased risk of complications during pregnancy or childbirth.  The video captures all of this. 
 
VIDEO: #ENDChildMarriageNow

Campaign Art: Girl Rising | Walking to School

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
 
Failing to educate girls is not only harmful for them, but also for their communities. Educating girls provides them with opportunities to understand the world and contribute to the workforce, improving their income-earning potential and socio-economic status.  According to the United Nations, without the input of women, economic growth is slowed and reduced, the personal security of everyone is threatened, the affects of conflicts and disasters are exaggerated, and half of a society’s brain power is wasted.

On 22 July 2014, the UK and UNICEF co-hosted the first Girl Summit to mobilize domestic and international support to end child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) as well as female genital mutilation (FGM) within a generation. The connection between education and these two practices is critical in efforts to ending them.

The education a girl receives is the strongest predictor of the age she will marry. Child marriage is associated with lower levels of schooling for girls in every region of the world.  FGM, likewise, is connected to education, albeit indirectly. FGM usually takes place before education is completed and sometimes before it commences. However, FGM prevalence levels are generally lower among women with higher education, indicating that the FGM status of a girl correlates with her educational attainment later in in life.
 
Girl Rising | Walking to School

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Without Stronger Transparency, More Financial Crises Loom
Committee to Protect Journalists
The social forces that can encourage euphoria among investors and then suddenly flip them into mass panic are not unlike those that generate crowd disasters such as the stampedes that have killed more than 2,500 pilgrims at Mecca since 1990. In such moments of herd-like behavior, the common element is a profound lack of information. If neither the individuals in an enthusiastic crowd nor those charged with policing it have a grasp on how it is behaving as a whole, the mob can grow too big for its surroundings. Equally, if those people are ill-informed about the extent of the risks they face when they discover something is wrong, they will assume the worst and rush for the exits, increasing the danger to all. This describes numerous crowd disasters. It also illustrates the financial crisis of 2008.

2014 Global Peace Index
Vision of Humanity
We are living in the most peaceful century in human history; however the 2014 Global Peace Index shows that the last seven years has shown a notable deterioration in levels of peace. The Global Peace Index measures peace in 162 countries according to 22 indicators that gauge the absence of violence or the fear of violence. This is the 8th year the index has been produced.

Day of the Girl (and a small revolution in the birthplace of humanity)

Duncan Green's picture

Guest post from Carron Basu Ray, (right) who coordinates Oxfam’s ‘My Rights, My Voice’ programme

The Ngorongoro area of Tanzania is regarded as the birthplace of humanity, a vast, strikingly beautiful part of the world. The Maasai pastoralists who live there are among the most marginalised people in the country and their children, especially the girls, have little access to quality education. I was in Tanzania a couple of weeks ago, meeting representatives from partner organisations and Oxfam colleagues who are implementing a dynamic education project that works with marginalised children and young people, their allies (parents, teachers, community leaders, etc) and many others on education issues and youth empowerment. The work is part of Oxfam’s eight country My Rights, My Voice global programme, funded by the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).