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Seeing child marriage through adolescent eyes

A dozen people are gathered around a water hand-pump

Country: Niger © Women in Law and Development in Africa

Unequal gender norms in many countries dictate that girls are more likely than boys to marry before the age of 18. According to UNICEF, some 650 million women today were married before their eighteenth birthday. Child marriage is most common in the world’s most impoverished areas and typically involves girls with limited employment opportunities and who do not attend school.

To date, most research on child marriage has drawn on national survey data to explain the underlying causes. However, it has focused less on the daily experiences of young people—and the role of boys and men has been almost completely overlooked.

Finding solutions in regions where the practice stubbornly persists demands a better understanding of what teens are experiencing and how their communities can respond. Research supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is providing youth perspectives on the issue and supporting advocacy training for youth.

Before I thought like many other girls that getting married early and having children allowed a woman to stay young forever. However, since we learned about the negative consequences of early marriage, I have committed to continue my studies.

Young woman from Lama-Tessi, Togo, who received training to advocate against child marriage

Read the book Dreaming of a Better Life: Child Marriage Through Adolescent Eyes, based on findings from the IDRC-funded research and intervention projects.

Read a detailed article about IDRC-supported research into child marriage: Seeing child marriage and parenting through adolescent eyes   

Youth in Niger act out a scene to advocate against child marriage. The scene depicts a mother who plans to marry off her young daughter, but is convinced that the girl should stay in school instead.

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