Working directly with girls to give them the opportunity to build skills and knowledge, understand and exercise their rights and develop support networks, is an important part of our efforts to end child marriage.
Using an empowerment approach can lead to positive outcomes for girls and their families by supporting girls to become agents of change, helping them envisage what alternative roles could look like in their communities and ultimately helping them to forge their own pathway in life.
Accessible, high quality and safe schooling
Increasing access to accessible, high quality and safe schooling is a critical strategy in ending child marriage and ensuring married girls have the opportunity to complete their education. Education builds knowledge, opens new opportunities and can help to shift norms around the value of girls in the community. The very act of girls attending school can reinforce to the community that girls of school-going age are still children.
Keeping girls in school is an effective way to prevent girls marrying early but it is not enough. Girls need the support to make the transition into secondary school. For married girls, it is important that schools encourage and support them to continue their education in either a formal or an informal setting such as being part of a safe space program, undertaking part-time, remote or vocational learning.
High quality, youth-friendly health services
Both unmarried and married girls need high quality, youth-friendly health services to live healthy and safe lives. Many girls in the developing world have an unmet need for sexual reproductive health care which can put them at risk of early pregnancy and contracting HIV and other STIs.
Girls need to know about their bodies as well as the types of services and healthcare available to them. Making sure health services are youth-friendly and that girls are able to access care without judgement and without male supervision is also important.
Girls and women also need to have economic security if they are to live safe, healthy and empowered lives. Introducing economic incentives such as conditional cash transfers can help encourage families to consider alternatives to child marriage by alleviating their economic hardship and reframing the daughter as a valued part of the family rather than an economic burden.
Economic empowerment schemes such as microfinance or village savings and loan schemes can help girls to support themselves and their families without having to be married. Furthermore, ensuring girls have the opportunity to become financially literate and have the ability to open and easily access a bank account (without male supervision) can help them save in a secure way and become financially independent.
Addressing child marriage and supporting the needs of married girls requires us to consider the economic and structural drivers which act as a barrier to ending child marriage. The most vulnerable girls who have no access to a quality education, healthcare or child protection mechanisms, are at a much greater risk of child marriage than girls who do. Ending child marriage requires us to review the services available to girls as well as asking how they reinforce one another and how they can be strengthened
Mobilize Families and Communities
Many families and communities see child marriage as a deeply rooted practice which has been part of their culture for generations. Whether the practice is cited as cultural or religious, it is often driven by inequitable gender norms such as an emphasis on protecting a girls’ (or her family’s) honor by controlling her sexuality.
For change to happen, the values and norms which support the practice of child marriage need to shift. Working with families and the wider community to raise awareness of the harmful consequences of child marriage can change attitudes and reduce the acceptance among those who make the decision to marry girls as children.
SAFE SPACE PROGRAMMES
Safe space programs which offer a varied curriculum covering life skills, health and financial literacy can provide girls with an opportunity to build their skills learn and meet friends and mentors in an informal setting and learn about the services they can access in their community.
Safe space programs can successfully build girls’ self-confidence, agency and self-efficacy, which they need to thrive. They can provide a good alternative for girls who do not have access to formal education such as married girls. Having a safe regular meeting place allows girls to meet with peers and share experiences which can reduce their sense of isolation and vulnerability.
The Way out
Chariots of Mercy will amplify the voices of girls at risk of child marriage and defend the rights of girls to health, education and the opportunity to fulfill their potential. In line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we believe that 18 should be the minimum age of marriage for boys and girls.
In working to end child marriage, we believe that social change cannot succeed without community engagement. Chariots of Mercy will work together to enhance and strengthen efforts to end child marriage at community, local and national levels. Specifically, Chariots of Mercy aims to:
Raise awareness of the harmful impact of child marriage by encouraging open, inclusive and informed discussion at the community, local and national level;
Facilitate learning and coordination between organizations working to end child marriage; and
Mobilize all necessary policy and other support to end child marriage.
We will be more effective in achieving our objectives by working together than by working alone.
Our call is empowering the girls, their dreams of becoming lawyers, doctors and teachers are valid and possible – we do this by breaking the chain- we provide sanitary towels for the girl child to remain in school during the entire school term– being in school is a safe haven for her. This protects her from FGM and early marriage.