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There are a number of interventions currently in use to tackle child marriage these include, empowering girls to build skills and knowledge about their rights through safe spaces, mobilizing communities to address the child marriage issue, advocating for the enforcement of laws that prevent child marriage, working with religious leaders as well as traditional leaders and so forth. Despite these interventions, child marriage remains a major issue, and in some places, an extremely contentious issue. Studies conducted by the World Bank Group indicate that each year, 15 million girls are married off before they are 18; these staggering figures suggests the need to think critically on improving already existing approaches to tackling child marriage as well as coming up with new solutions that seek to address the underlying causes of child marriage.
It is generally agreed that a major factor driving child marriage is poverty; research conducted by the World Bank group indicates that girls from poorer households are twice as likely to be married off before 18 as compared to girls in higher income households (WBG, 2014). For this reason, two very crucial and inter-linked approaches to tackling child marriage, which are not on the front burner needs to come to the fore.

Conditional schemes where parents are provided with economic resources on the condition that they keep girls in school much longer and delay marriage are in use in India, and of recent, Nigeria, but are not particularly popular in other countries.  A probable reason for this is that conditional schemes practiced largely focus on conditional cash transfers and sustaining this in poorer countries could pose a challenge.  

A conditional scheme which focuses on the subsidization of government provided services of priority to the heads of households on the condition that girls are not married off early and are allowed to stay in school much longer serves as a better sustained approach.  In societies where agriculture for instance serves as a major livelihood, subsidizing government provided agricultural services and improving access to these services on the condition that the heads of households keep girls in school much longer and delay the age of marriage could serve as a sustained approach which will, in the long run benefit the girl child, her parents, and the country’s economy as well.

The second approach to tackling child marriage which is linked to the first approach is setting the conditional scheme to encourage parents to keep both boys and girls in schools as opposed to strictly focusing on girls. There are a number of reasons for this; the first has to do with the fact that in a number of societies marrying off the girl child is also often a cultural as well as a contentious issue and in order to mitigate backlash, encouraging parents to keep ALL children in school is proposed. This approach is being used by a DFID funded local governance programme in Nigeria known as Mobilising for Development (M4D) where facilitating girls’ participation in local governance is subsumed within a broader citizen participation portfolio in order to limit resistance from communities; the idea is that if you are supporting every social group to participate in governance processes, it becomes a lot more difficult for communities to resist girls’ participation within governance processes as well. Another reason for focusing on both boys and girls is due to the fact that boys from poorer households are also less likely to complete their primary education or go to a higher institution (OoSC statistics, 2014).

Implementing these two approaches however has a number of implications; political will to address the child marriage issue needs to be in existence given that these approaches are tied to government provided services, a multi-sectoral response is also required given that services of priority to the heads of households could cut across a number of sectors; the key here is understanding what is of priority first before designing.

In conclusion, it is important to note that this article doesn’t discredit already existing interventions applied to address child marriage; however, there is very little evidence to show that current interventions are truly addressing the child marriage issue; as such it is of importance to test new approaches, or possibly fine tune already existing approaches to addressing child marriage.
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Transparency and Development Information Initiative (TDii) was established in Nigeria in 2008 as an Independent, Research Based, Advocacy and Capacity Building Organization. It is Not-for-Profit and aims to support the . . . READ MORE


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