Reaching girls most at risk of child marriage: an approach from Mozambique

Participants during the Girl Move workshop on reaching girls in the poorest and most isolated communities, and who are often the most at risk of child marriage. Photo credit: Girl Move.

How can we reach the poorest girls in the poorest communities across Mozambique? That is the question that over 90 representatives from 40 organisations gathered to discuss in Nampula earlier this year.

Together we launched Movimento M, a community of practice committed to building evidence-based programmes for girls, led by Girl Move with support from the Population Council and CECAP, the Girls Not Brides National Partnership in Mozambique.

Child marriage in Mozambique

Child marriage is a high-priority issue in Mozambique. Despite a decrease of adolescents married before age 15 in the last decade, population growth is outweighing progress made, resulting in a high number of girls married at young ages.

Widely cited research shows that almost one out of every two girls in Mozambique is married before the age of 18. However, this national average disguises hot spots where the rate is actually much higher. In the province of Nampula for instance, nearly two out of every three girls (62.3%) are married before 18.

Intentional design to address child marriage in Mozambique

Unless we thoroughly understand the landscape in which we are working, any attempt to address child marriage will fall short. With an intentional design approach, we can visualise girls’ universe and their specific needs, and create programmes that work against the inequalities they experience and provide them the assets they need to thrive.

As a strategy to address child marriage and other negative outcomes – such as HIV, adolescent pregnancy, low levels of education, and gender based violence – we convened this workshop focusing on the Northern region which has large concentrations of girls unlikely to safely transition to adulthood.

To start, everyone introduced their organisation and we mapped out where programmes exist that focus on girls so that we could better coordinate our activities and leverage resources. Then we introduced innovative methods to expand the reach of programmes and build protective assets for adolescent girls and young women.

The Population Council has developed Building Girls’ Protective Assets: A Collection of Tools for Program Design that includes a series of tools to help organisations gather information about the girls in their community and make informed decisions when designing their programmes.

The Girl Roster™, for instance, uses mobile technology to gather information about girls through a door-to-door survey. It then sorts the data into key segments based on characteristics that often dictate need including age, school going, living arrangement, marital and childbearing status.

This provides a snapshot of the girls in the community that can inform where a programme needs to be located, how to recruit girls to join the programme, as well as building a foundation to more fully understand girls’ circumstances and meet their needs.

Safe spaces and mentors to build protective assets

The safe space model involves creating a place where girls can get together with other girls at least twice a week. Mentors, usually young women from the same community, facilitate the meetings and serve as trusted role models that help the girls navigate the complicated landscape of adolescence.

These regular safe space meetings become a platform to deliver an array of content, including financial literacy, livelihood development, and information about sexual and reproductive health. The safe space model is a holistic approach that builds protective assets for girls to prevent them from falling off track.

Girl Move gave an overview of their Girl Move Academy and the intensive training process their mentors undergo to lead girl groups and be change-makers in their communities. They also presented a case management tool to help mentors recognise signs of risk so girls can receive the attention they need to prevent negative outcomes regarding their health, education or human rights.

Movimento M – A community of practice dedicated to evidence-based programmes for adolescent girls

This workshop was an opportunity for organisations that work with girls across Mozambique to learn more about each other’s work. It also marked the launch of Movimento M, a community of practice and learning circle that will promote co-learning and sharing of resources with a commitment to evidence based programmes for girls.

We will continue to foster a spirit of co-learning, which has the double benefit of maximising programme impact while allowing for a deeper knowledge of the barriers girls face in Mozambique, and intentionally designing programmes to address them.

For more resources about adolescent girl programming, visit the Population Council website