World Vision, Inc.

Empowering Families to End Child Marriage

Children's rights

To end child marriage in West Africa, we address the impact of poverty and social norms through conditional cash transfers, community-based interventions and national advocacy.

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Project Summary

Child Marriage is a global problem, with some of the highest rates found in West Africa. Girls from the poorest households are three times as likely to be married as children. Child marriage limits girls’ education, reduces their economic opportunities, and perpetuates a cycle of poverty within the community.Conditional cash transfers will enable, and require, households to keep girls in school. Current child brides will receive financial education, support for small businesses/savings groups, generating sustainable livelihoods. A social norm change program targeting communities, influencers and faith leaders will uphold the value of girls and create awareness around the negative impact and risks of early marriage. Advocacy with governments will work to strengthen and secure implementation of effective policies to end child marriage. By working with 81,000 poor households in 1,700 communities, we will bring a lasting change and scalable impact towards ending child marriage in Mali, Senegal, and Ghana.

Problem Statement

Child marriage is a global problem with over 12 million girls married annually before the age of 18. West Africa remains a region of high and persistent prevalence with child marriage affecting 52% of girls in Mali, 31% in Senegal and 22% in Ghana. Key drivers of child marriage are poverty and cultural norms. Girls living in poor households are almost three times more likely to marry before 18 than girls in higher income households, especially those in rural areas. In some communities, early marriage is seen as a well-intended measure to protect and ensure a better life for girls. Others see girls’ value in bringing income through dowries. Child marriage limits girls’ education, reduces their economic and livelihood opportunities, and increases their social isolation. Girls married before age 18 face higher risks of violence, food insecurity, and health problems, including pregnancy complications – a leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19. Children of girls who married early are less likely to survive infancy and have reduced educational, economic and health prospects, continuing the cycle of inter-generational poverty. Child marriage in Mali is endemic and has shown almost no progress. In Senegal, areas of the country have successfully tackled the issue, but resistant regions remain. Ghana achieved more success, but efforts seem stalled, eluding a prospect of total elimination of child marriage.World Vision’s experience and research in child marriage indicates that successful solutions require simultaneously addressing attitudes, poverty, education, and government policies, rather than individual interventions in isolation.

Solution Overview

The focus on the household and community offers flexibility, leads to behavior change and empowerment needed to respond to child marriage and bring about sustainable change, at scale, in West Africa. The project will provide financial assistance to 81,000 poor households in 1,700 communities in Mali, Senegal, and Ghana, helping them realize the potential of girls and risks of child marriage. Conditional cash transfers will facilitate letting at-risk girls to stay in school, receive education and essential training and skills to exercise their rights, ready to enter the labor market, become entrepreneurs and contributors to their community. Current child brides will also receive financial education and support to establish small businesses and savings groups, generating sustainable livelihoods. A socio-behavioral change program will engage community influencers, especially faith leaders (e.g. Imams, pastors), to uphold the value of girls and create awareness around the negative impact and risks of early marriage. The project will work with the three governments to strengthen and advocate for effective policies and their implementation. We will provide momentum to Malian efforts to address the widespread problem; accelerate progress in the hard-to-impact communities in Senegal; and support Ghanaian families in ending child marriage.By investing in girls at scale, engaging with families, communities and governments, our intervention will lead to girls staying in school longer, marrying later, the community perception of the value of girls and young women is improved, families and communities achieve financial stability, and demonstrate change in attitudes and behaviors.

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