More power to her: how empowering girls can end child marriage

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Ann Warner, Kirsten Stoebenau and Allison M. Glinski

The International Center for Research on Women’s report, “More Power to Her: How Empowering Girls Can Help End Child Marriage”, shows how and why investing in girls is critical to the global movement to end child marriage. The practice, which cuts across global cultures and religions, turns more than 14 million girls worldwide into child brides every year, violating their basic human rights – and hindering larger international development efforts.

ICRW has been at the forefront of exposing the harms caused by child marriage, and identifying solutions to prevent it, for more than 15 years. In 2011, ICRW identified five promising strategies to prevent child marriage.  With this latest study, ICRW set out to discover how programs in Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia and India are working to empower both girls at-risk of child marriage as well as already married girls, and how empowerment leads to changes in knowledge, attitudes and practices.

Based on four case studies – programs run by CARE (Ethiopia), BRAC (Bangladesh), Save the Children (Egypt) and Pathfinder International (India) – ICRW’s findings show that girl-focused programs expand girls’ ability to make strategic life choices by providing them with access to critical resources. The information, skills and social support that they gain help to instill a transformation within girls: increasing their self-awareness, their self-efficacy and their aspirations. They also introduce girls to alternatives to marriage, such as school and livelihood opportunities, and enhance their ability to influence key ‘gatekeepers’ in their lives, such as parents, husbands or community leaders.