With this study, UNICEF and the Ministry for Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and the Disabled (MoLSAMD) bring some nuance to the usual narrative around child marriage in Afghanistan.
For example, while we often hear about a lack of awareness around child marriage in Afghan communities, people interviewed in this study were often aware of its harmful impacts. While we often hear about fathers being the only one to make decisions about their daughters' marriage, the study found other family members to be part of this process as well.
The study also confirmed several elements found in Afghanistan and elsewhere. For example, the long-lasting impacts of child marriage ranging from maternal and infant health challenges, difficult marriages, limited education and work opportunities, restricted mobility, through to violence and attempted suicides. While girls usually see their agency restricted, this also happens to family members especially in contexts with strong social norms and high insecurity, so efforts to address child marriage should involve the family and community at large.
The main takeaway from the report is the need to adopt a comprehensive approach to address the complex practice of child marriage. That is an approach that addresses not only policy, law, economic challenges, social and cultural norms of gender inequality, harmful traditional practices, and insecurity, but which also work with girls and boys, parents and children, frontline workers and key influencers.
The study was based on household surveys, case studies, focus groups and interviews in five provinces across Afghanistan (Bamyan, Kandahar, Paktia, Ghor and Badghis).