DDVE has received funding from TFESSD (the Trust Fund for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development) to launch work on child marriage among vulnerable girls in Africa. Child marriage is a widespread – close to 80% of girls get married before the age of 18 in Niger, and the proportion is about half in countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso. The practice can partly be seen as an economic transaction, with shocks as one key element driving the decision by parents to let their daughter(s) enter into early marriage. This may happen for example when the financial situation of a family is such that there simply are not enough resources to pay for the upbringing and schooling of (another) girl, and it may therefore seem an appropriate decision for parents to let an (often older) man marry the girl and thereby relieve the family of the responsibility for the girl’s upbringing.
Various types of policies van help in reducing the prevalence of the practice of child marriage, Legal changes – for example to family codes – are one way to set a framework for policies dealing with child marriage, but in several countries these changes are opposed by cultural and religious associations. Beyond legal changes, incentives provided to parents as well as targeted programs, for example for orphans, have proven successful in some countries.
While the literature suggests that child marriage has large negative effects on education and health, and even social isolation, we do not have detailed empirical work on these issues today especially in West/Central Africa. The project will generate data analysis as well as capacity building tools to foster debates and policies conducive in the countries with a high incidence of child marriage to reduce such incidence, with a focus on identifying the shocks leading to child marriage, as well as preventing and coping mechanisms to avoid child marriage.
Beyond the measurement of child marriage (on which most of the literature in Africa focuses), the team will use analysis techniques to better measure the impact of child marriage on education and health outcomes, and also conduct qualitative work in close partnership with community and faith leaders in order to foster dialogue and capacity building. For example, among Muslim countries, there is a perception today that regulating child marriage is un-Islamic. Yet there are resources within Islamic law, and especially within Islamic jurisprudence that can be used in order to argue that dealing with child marriage would not contradict Islamic Law. Similar arguments can be made for other religious and cultural traditions.
If you are interested in contributing to this work, please contact Quentin Wodon at firstname.lastname@example.org.