Strategy to provide services
There are many structural barriers that can push girls into child marriage and prevent them from accessing support once they are married. Provide services across sectors that reinforce one another and are tailored to the specific needs of girls at risk of marriage and married girls.
Service providers must consider all barriers across education, health, justice and child protection sectors, and tailor innovative programmes to both married and unmarried girls.
For example, a lack of secondary schools means girls in rural areas often live far from their nearest school. If they cannot travel there safely, or have started menstruating and there are no sex-segregated toilets, they may miss school. Married girls with children may lack child support facilities or may not be allowed to return to school.
Providers should also establish systems to identify the warning signs and address the risks of child marriage, as well as supporting married girls to leave marriage if desired.
- Increased access to safe, quality formal and non-formal education for girls
- Increased access to health services for adolescent girls, married and unmarried
- Health and education services establish protocols on identifying the warning signs and addressing the risks of child marriage
- Improved economic security for girls
- Increased commitment of programmes to prevent and mitigate risk of child marriage
With better education, health and legal services - including those that provide girls with the skills and opportunities necessary to reduce their financial dependence on others - girls should be better equipped to avoid child marriage. Married girls should be better able to continue their education and, if they wish, to leave marriage.
Programmes and practice
Accessible, high quality and safe schooling
Increasing access to accessible, high quality and safe schooling is a critical strategy in ending child marriage and ensuring married girls have the opportunity to complete their education. Education builds knowledge, opens new opportunities and can help to shift norms around the value of girls in the community. The very act of girls attending school can reinforce to the community that girls of school-going age are still children.
Keeping girls in school is an effective way to prevent girls marrying but it is not enough. Girls need the support to make the transition into secondary school. For married girls, it is important that schools encourage and support them to continue their education in either an informal or formal setting such as being part of a safe space programme, undertaking part-time, remote or vocational learning.
High quality, youth-friendly health services
Both unmarried and married girls need high quality, youth-friendly health services to live healthy and safe lives. Many girls in the developing world have an unmet need for sexual reproductive health care which can put them at risk of early pregnancy and contracting HIV and other STIs.
Girls need to know about their bodies as well as the types of services and healthcare available to them. Making sure health services are youth-friendly and that girls are able to access care without judgement and without male supervision is also important.
Adequate child protection mechanisms
Ensuring there are adequate child protection mechanisms in place is an important part of our efforts to end child marriage. Establishing protocols on identifying the warning signs and addressing the risks of child marriage is a key part of this work.
Child protection services need to be accessible via a number of channels, including education, healthcare providers, community workers and the police. Working with service providers to build their capacity can help to ensure that cases of child marriage in the community are responded to effectively.
Girls and women also need to have economic security if they are to live safe, healthy and empowered lives. Introducing economic incentives such as conditional cash transfers can help encourage families to consider alternatives to child marriage by alleviating their economic hardship and reframing the daughter as a valued part of the family rather than an economic burden.
Economic empowerment schemes such as microfinance or village savings and loan schemes can help girls to support themselves and their families without having to be married. Furthermore, ensuring girls have the opportunity to become financially literate and have the ability to open and easily access a bank account (without male supervision) can help them save in a secure way and become financially independent.
Theory of Change user guide
This user guide outlines ways in which organisations can use the global Theory of Change on child marriage.
Back to school campaign
In this case study, we explore the work of Camfed who has helped a group of married girls return to school in Mfera, Malawi.
Unite for Body Rights (UFBR)
This case study explores the work of Amref Health Africa who works to ensure young people have access to youth-friendly sexual reproductive health services.
Family guidance centres and women's shelters
This case study explores the support married and at-risk girls need, as well as the challenges faced when implementing this type of work in unstable contexts like Afghanistan.