Child marriage is a gross violation of a child’s rights to health, protection, and bodily integrity, and an impediment to sustainable development. It often leads to negative health impacts, truncated education, lack of access to income generation opportunities, and increased risk of intimate partner violence.
Although child marriage affects both boys and girls, girls and women suffer disproportionately from its consequences. More than 700 million women alive today – roughly 10% of the world’s population – were married before their 18th birthday, and of these women more than one in three (about 250 million) were married before the age of 15.
Many young people receive very limited or no information or education related to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). The information they do receive rarely includes the gender and human rights-based approach that is linked to safer sex. Every year 16 million adolescent girls give birth, with 90% of these pregnancies occurring within marriage. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the main cause of death for girls aged 15-19 in many developing countries. Because most adolescent pregnancies in high-burden countries occur within marriage, addressing child marriage is critical to improving SRHR.
Simavi is part of the More than Brides Alliance together with Save the Children Netherlands, Oxfam Novib and Population Council. In partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this alliance is implementing the 5-year programme ‘Marriage: No Child’s Play’ (2016-2020) in India, Pakistan, Malawi, Niger, and Mali.
The long-term objective of this programme is for young people to be able to decide if and when to marry and to be able to pursue their SRHR in a supportive environment.
We are convinced that young people, especially girls, are only able to decide if and when to marry if: they are empowered to make informed decisions; their protective assets are built; their community respects their rights.
Therefore the More Than Brides Alliance offers a multi-pronged approach of equipping adolescents with necessary skills and information, increasing their access to services and opportunities, and building their agency, while at the same time shifting social norms related to marriage formation, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and gender equality. Formative Research, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning, and the results thereof, are used to guide and adapt the programme during implementation.
Simavi implements the Marriage: No Child’s Play programme in India and Malawi. Simavi’s strategies include:
- Empowering at risk, and already married, adolescents (girls in particular) with life skills education (LSE), Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information in peer support groups.
- Providing alternatives to child marriage by enhancing access to education opportunities and helping girls to stay in school by improving school safety, preventing dropout and removing financial barriers to attendance (e.g. through linkage to incentives programmes).
- Enhancing access to economic and income generating opportunities for girls and their families, and providing financial literacy training for girls, to increase their ability and power in financial decision-making.
- Enhancing access to improved child protection systems for girls at risk of child marriage (and already married girls) so that preventive and response measures can be taken.
- Increasing access to quality youth-friendly SRHR services (that are available, affordable, acceptable and appropriate) for unmarried and married young people.
- Contributing to changing social norms that perpetuate the practice of child marriage. This change will be guided by formative research and promoted through raising awareness, community dialogue, facilitating social mobilisation and supporting collective action.
- Influencing legal and policy frameworks by conducting policy dialogue and advocating towards policymakers for the development, adaptation and implementation of laws, policies and cross-sector action plans to reduce child marriage.
In 2017, the second implementation year of the programme, Simavi and its partners achieved the following main results in India:
- 239 girls convinced their parents that they should not get married at such a young age with the help of adolescent groups or Child Protection Committees.
- 958 adolescents girls groups and 221 adolescent boys groups have been formed and strengthened.
- 17,706 adolescent girls and boys were provided with SRHR and/or life skills education.
- 1993 girls who had dropped out of school were enrolled in remedial coaching.
- 295 girls have been linked to or provided with vocational training.
- 1,950 boys and girls were provided with financial literacy education.
- 378 Child Protection and/or Village Health Sanitation Nutrition Committees have been formed and/or strengthened.
- 4 new adolescent-friendly health centres have been established and 4 existing adolescent-friendly health centres were strengthened.
- 461 health care providers were trained in youth-friendly SRHR service provision.
- 563 community meetings were held to discuss child marriage, girls’ education and SRHR issues.
- 290 religious and community leaders were motivated to speak in a public forum on the banning of child marriage.
- 70 duty bearers have been oriented on their roles in reporting and referral of child marriage cases.
Simavi and its partners achieved the following main results in 2017:
- 320 girls in the community resisted the (parental) pressure to get married.
- 551 child marriage cases were identified and followed up through community mechanisms established by the programme.
- More than 1,600 young people have been trained in SRHR and the negative effects of child marriage, mostly in community and school clubs.
- Implementing partners have reached out to almost 14,000 girls on life skills and/or SRHR information in schools.
- 200 Mother Groups/Parent Teacher Associations in 53 primary schools were trained in their roles in supporting girls’ education and ending child marriage.
- 138 trained Parenting Facilitators led discussions on positive parenting, child marriage and girls’ education in 64 established Parenting Circles.
- Simavi partner YONECO’s national child helpline received more than 31,000 calls in 2017, including more than 6,000 cases of abuse and violence.
- 27 health service providers were trained to provide youth friendly services and 20 Youth Community Distribution Agents were trained to provide contraception to young people outside health facilities.
- 92 trained Ending Child Marriage Campaign Promotors raised awareness on the negative consequences of child marriage in communities.
- 95 trained Male Champions engaged 570 boys and men to advocate against child marriage and raise awareness of girls’ rights.
- A supportive environment to stop child marriages was promoted through theatre performances, radio programmes and social media.
- At national level, Simavi partners engaged in policy dialogues with key policy makers and politicians. This contributed to the constitutional amendment outlawing child marriages in Malawi.
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