Strategy to advance girls' rights and leadership
For girls to avoid marriage, early pregnancy and unwanted sex, they need to understand and "own" their rights, and be able to make and act on decisions about their own lives.
A wide range of programmes should invest in girls – including the most excluded and marginalised – to increase their knowledge, skills and assets, and support their decision-making power, collective action, choice and control of their futures.
This means offering appropriate training and safe spaces, building support networks and involving those most at risk in the decisions that affect them, including marriage.
This means offering girls the chance to connect with their peers and support each other, as well as having access to formal support services. It also depends on the existence of real alternatives to marriage – different lifestyles and roles for unmarried girls that are valued and respected by them and their families.
- Girls are aware of and can exercise their rights and challenge harmful gender norms.
- Girls can develop solidarity with one another through peer groups and collective action.
- Girls and women can take advantage of economic opportunities and transformed gender roles.
- Girls who are – or have been – married or in informal unions have increased access to essential services including health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, education, comprehensive sexuality education, child protection, gender violence support, economic assistance and legal support.
Our strategic activities should help girls see themselves as "rights holders" with choices and opportunity.
They should transform what families and communities expect of girls, so that early marriage or union is no longer the only option available.
They should change girls’ conditions, so that they enjoy greater support from their peers and from service providers, and can access education and livelihoods opportunities as real alternatives to child marriage and unions.
Programmes that advance girls' rights and leadership
Safe space programmes
Safe space programmes which offer a varied curriculum covering life skills, health and financial literacy can support girls and adolescents to build their skills, learn and meet friends and mentors in an informal setting. This is also a space to learn about the services they can access in their community.
Safe space programmes can successfully build girls’ self-confidence, agency, self-efficacy and leadership, which they need to thrive.
They are also a good alternative for girls who do not have access to formal education, like married, pregnant or parenting girls, or girls affected by crisis or conflict.
Having a safe regular meeting place allows girls to meet with peers and share experiences which can reduce their sense of isolation and vulnerability.
Some of these programmes have economic empowerment components, such as conditional cash transfers, which have proven successful in increasing the age of marriage.
Supporting young people to be agents of change
Supporting young people to be agents of change can be an effective and empowering process in and of itself. Many organisations work with young people so they can advocate for change and inform the design of programmes that directly impact them and their peers.
Youth groups, encouraging intergenerational dialogue between youth and community leaders, and enhancing young people's capacity and leadership are all ways of supporting young people to be champions of change in their own communities.
Theory of Change user guide
This user guide outlines ways in which organisations can use the global Theory of Change on child marriage.
Female-friendly spaces in a post-earthquake Nepal
In this case study, we explore Aura Freedom International’s female-friendly spaces in post-earthquake Nepal.
Abriendo oportunidades ("Opening opportunities")
Population Council’s "Abriendo Oportunidades" programme works with adolescent girls in Guatemala to provide them with the skills and support they need to improve their lives.
Integrated project for empowering adolescent girls
In this case study, we explore the work of Institute of Health Management Pachod (IHMP) who empowers unmarried and married adolescent girls in Maharashtra, India.