Child Marriage Prevention

Research

We conduct formative research with individuals and communities on gender norms and beliefs that influence the prevalence of child marriage, which occurs when at least one of the spouses is below the age of 18. In turn, this research is used to raise awareness and inform programs and policies to combat this global issue.

Programming

Educational curricula encourage critical reflections around harmful gender norms to challenge, prevent, and mitigate the consequences of child marriage globally.

Advocacy

The formative research on child marriage aims to inform policy interventions at the national level to make key structural changes and to stimulate change at the community level by mobilizing fathers and families to challenge norms supporting child marriage.

 

Though the data are inconsistent and of low quality in some settings, we know that child marriage is a universal issue in the sense that it occurs in every region and among people of every religion. While the rates child marriage are highest in Sub-Saharan and Western Africa, the greatest absolute number of child marriages takes place in South Asia. Even though Brazil has largely been absent from global discussions about child marriage, as of 2013 it was listed among countries with a high prevalence of the practice.

While both boys and girls may experience child marriage, girls are disproportionately affected by it. Experiences in diverse settings have shown that combining adequate legislation and policies with initiatives aimed at changing social norms can yield positive results to protect girls’ right to freely decide if, when, and whom they choose to marry – especially if they simultaneously provide viable alternatives to marriage such as schooling. An important step to enhance the impact of such initiatives is engaging men and boys as positive influences: a father who agrees to delay the timing of his daughter’s marriage, a young man who decides to challenge the marriage of his young sister, a family member who steps in to prevent child marriage, or a man who changes his attitudes about the practice. Involving men and boys in the prevention of child marriage builds on a body of research showing that adolescent girls benefit from involved male caregivers. Girls with involved male caregivers tend to experience less sexual violence or unwanted, early sexual activity; are more likely to have better self-esteem and body image; and are more likely to delay sexual debut and to seek partners who have more gender-equitable attitudes and behaviors.

Promundo has conducted formative research and developed program tools to address child marriage in India and Brazil. One such tool is A More Equal Future, a MenCare manual designed to engage fathers, daughters, and families to critically examine and change norms that support child marriage in India. Based on formative research conducted with communities in Agra, India, the manual includes discussions on father-daughter relationships, gender norms, child marriage, and violence. Created as part of a collaboration between World Vision and Promundo, A More Equal Future addresses harmful societal and cultural practices that support the continuation of child marriage in India. The activities include focus group discussions with men, their partners, and their daughters, as well as the mobilization of men and fathers as participants in a campaign to end child marriage. These activities have had a positive effect on men, including an increased understanding of the impact of gender inequality on child marriage and sharing of domestic work and caregiving responsibilities.

Promundo expanded its research efforts related to child marriage by conducting research in Brazil from 2013-2015 with support from the Ford Foundation. Brazil has largely been absent from global discussions and advocacy about child marriage, yet globally, Brazil is the country with the fourth highest absolute number of girls married by age 15. There is also a particularly high prevalence of child marriage in Brazil, with more than 38 percent of girls married by age 18. The nature and implications of girls’ marriages in Brazil has been absent in national research and policy-making agendas, as in other countries in the Latin American region.

In order to better understand the attitudes, practices, and implications of these marriages in Brazil, Promundo began research with partners in the states of Pará (Universidade Federal do Pará – UFPA) and Maranhão (Plan International affiliate, Plan Maranhão). These states have the highest registered prevalence of child marriage, which is often associated with informal unions and cohabitation in Brazil. Findings, published in the report “She goes with me in my boat”: Child and Adolescent Marriage in Brazil, build a knowledge base for informing policy interventions and programs to address this issue in Brazil, other parts of Latin America, and around the world.

In 2014, Promundo-US and Instituto Promundo (Brazil) became members of Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 400 civil society organizations from over 60 countries working to address child marriage.

Related Programs

  • IMAGES: IMAGES measures men’s attitudes and practices – along with women’s opinions and reports of men’s practices – on a wide variety of topics related to gender equality.
  • MenCare: The MenCare campaign promotes men’s equal involvement in caregiving and equitable, nonviolent fatherhood practices around the world.