Celebrating Girl´s Voices: Our most important findings

´Child marriage is going down in Her Choice treatment sites. We see a reduction of 17 year-old girls who are married, in nearly all countries´

This is one of the most important findings from the midterm evaluation. On the first of April, the Her Choice Alliance celebrated girl´s voices and evaluated the midterm findings during an expert meeting in the Museum of Children´s Books, The Hague. The results of the Her Choice midline survey were received by Mabel van Oranje, chairman of Girls Not Brides and Mette Gonggrijp, women’s rights ambassador of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Since 2016 the Her Choice alliance has been working with a funding from the Dutch government to reduce child marriage in ten countries in Africa and Asia. Research partner Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR) of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) is keeping track on the results. They investigate why girls get married early, whether our approach works and where there is room for improvement.

The midterm report shows that girls in the Her Choice working areas are better informed about their rights. The girls are aware of the disadvantages of child marriages and are more open to speak out about the subject. Especially in Africa more girls have the feeling that they themselves can decide if, when and with whom they want to marry.

Highlights

The midterm report shows highlights as well as challenges for Her Choice. It is important for us to evaluate what we have done until now so that we can see if we are on the right track or whether we need to adjust our approach. A few highlights from our report:

  • Girls’ (and boys’) knowledge has increased and they make more informed decisions. Girls (and boys) have increased knowledge on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, on adverse effects of early marriage and on child marriage law and policies.
  • More girls have agency in marriage decisions. An increased share of single girls report feeling in control of marriage decisions. The highest feeling of controle in Treatment is measured in Ghana and Benin (67%) and Ehtiopia (61%).
  • Child marriage is going down! There are less 17 year-old girls who are married in our intervention areas. Reductions are greatest in South Asian countries, and in Senegal and Benin.
  • More girls stay in school and are increasingly aware of importance to finish secondary schooling.  The girls are more likely to attend (secondary) school and an increased number of schools have taken measures to become girl-friendly.
  • The partnership model works well.  The partnerships between the Her Choice Alliance and local implementing partners and research partners in all countries are pragmatic, committed, show mutual respect, and practice mutual learning.

Challenges

Besides our accomplishments, we also see some challenges for the upcoming period. For example:

  • Teachers have made us clear that they feel uncomfortable discussing sex-related topics.
  • Also, the sexuality of girls in most communities is still a big taboo, and the use of contraceptives is being retained. As a result, teenage pregnancies often occur which in turn lead to child marriages. Child marriage serves as a measure to prevent shame for girls and parents.
  • Knowledge of laws against child marriage have not necessarily led to understanding the reasons for having those laws.

Her choice is determined to focus even more strongly on these and more challenges. Find our full midterm report here.