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Making sense of challenges engaging religious leaders to end child marriage

While some religious leaders are powerful allies in the movement to end child marriage, other resist efforts to end the practice.

Why and how are they resisting? And what strategies can activists use to address these challenges?

This webinar explores the findings from “What lies beneath? Tackling the roots of religious resistance to ending child marriage”, a report done by Stellenbosch University for Girls Not Brides.

Working with religious leaders to address child marriage

Some religious leaders have acted as powerful agents of change for progress on child marriage across the world. Others have been an obstacle to efforts to end the practice. Based on research by Stellenbosch University and insights from twenty Girls Not Brides members and partners, this brief summarises what we know about working with religious leaders to address child marriage, and introduce some resources and tools to support more effective work in this area.

What lies beneath? Tackling the roots of religious resistance to ending child marriage

Child marriage is caused by many different factors and is not determined by any particular religion. Yet religious leaders often have great influence over beliefs and behaviours in their communities. So with almost 80% of the world’s population professing a religious belief, working with religious leaders can be an important part of the comprehensive approach needed to end child marriage.

Some religious leaders have taken action to address child marriage and have been powerful agents of change. Others have been obstacles to progress and civil society organisations have faced challenges in engaging with them. To support its members in overcoming these challenges, Girls Not Brides commissioned the Unit for Religion and Development Research at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, to explore why and how some religious leaders resist efforts to end end child marriage, and what organisations can do when facing religious resistance.

Based on a literature review and 15 interviews with practitioners working with various religious communities across different regions, the researchers developed a typology of religious resistance, identifying six ways in which some religious leaders oppose actions to end child marriage, and seven reasons why they do so. The report then highlights three key principles that any organisation wishing to engage with religious leaders should follow, and five common strategies that have proved useful to work effectively with religious leaders across different contexts.

Engaging religious leaders to address child marriage

Some religious leaders are powerful agents of change. Others are an obstacle to progress on child marriage.

How can we work effectively with religious leaders? What are the challenges and the benefits of engaging them?

In this webinar, we heard from practitioners in a range of countries who reflect on these questions and share their experiences.

An Islamic human rights perspective on early and forced marriages

In this guide, Islamic Relief presents an Islamic human rights perspective on early and forced marriage. It is useful for those working to end the practices in Muslim communities.

The guide calls upon families, imams, community leaders, teachers, health workers, governments and civil society organisations to work together to understand why child, early and forced marriage happens in Muslim communities, raise awareness about its harmful consequences, and address it by promoting a better understanding of human rights enshrined in Islamic teaching.

Faith leaders toolkit on ending early marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting in Ethiopia and Nigeria

These manuals were created to equip Ethiopian and Nigerian religious leaders to address child marriage and female genital cutting with their congregants.

As such, the manual has been tailored to meet the unique and appropriate needs of Christian, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) and Muslim faith leaders in Ethiopia and Nigeria.

The Christian and Islamic perspectives on protecting children from violence and harmful practices

This series of reports was developed by UNICEF Egypt in partnership with the Islamic Centre for Population Studies and Research at Al-Azhar University and the Coptic Church of Egypt.

The reports draw on sacred texts from different religions to analyse Islamic and Christian perspectives on harmful practices affecting children, including child marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, domestic and sexual abuse, trafficking, and child labour among others.