Theory of change

Publication Subtitle

Ending child marriage in Bangladesh

Publication year


Publication Author

Ravi Verma and Padmavathi Srinivasan

ICRW’s Asia Regional Office brought together 80 stakeholders from communities around Bangladesh for a two-day “Theory of Change: Ending Child Marriage in Bangladesh” workshop in February. Government figures, NGOs, donors, religious leaders and adolescents from local communities joined together to share experiences and insights on how to better understand and tackle Bangladesh’s high rates of child marriage.

In Bangladesh, 64 percent of women aged 20-24 were married before their 18th birthday. Although Bangladesh has recently seen an improvement in gender-based development markers such as rates of female literacy and women’s participation in the labor force, which typically indicate gender equality is increasing, the number of girls married at ages 16 and 17 throughout Bangladesh is actually increasing.

ICRW, in partnership with UNFPA and Plan Bangladesh, conducted the workshop to work together to conceptualize a “theory of change” that could serve as a framework in developing strategies and evaluation indicators to ensure long and short-term goals related to reducing child marriage are met. By bringing together community members and officials with varying socio-economic backgrounds, the workshops encouraged diverse conversations about the causes and consequences of child marriage.

Led by Ravi Verma and Padmavathi Srinivasan from ICRW’s Asia Regional office in New Delhi, the workshop familiarized participants with the latest statistics, trends and patterns of child marriage, both globally and in Bangladesh, and facilitated group work to identify various determinants of child marriage within Bangladesh’s context. Participants worked in various mixed groups bringing together religious groups, NGOs, government officials and adolescent constituencies together. This provided rich and meaningful exchanges of ideas and insightful discussions. The first day discussion informed the policy issues and programmatic nuances that needed to be addressed. These policy and programmatic responses were discussed in detail on the second day, which was attended primarily by senior level policy makers and program managers from both the Government of Bangladesh and other international agencies.

The participants identified five pillars of influence on girls’ lives that should be addressed in order to eliminate the practice of child marriage: the child’s agency, her family, her community, institutions, and policies. Through analyzing participants’ feedback and discussions throughout the workshop, the ToC proposes a multi-sectoral and multi-level approach. The best approach in preventing child marriage is to address the five pillars in ways that would be based on culturally and contextually appropriate prioritization of these pillars and assessment of strengths and weaknesses. ICRW has previously found that one of the most critical ways to accomplish this is by empowering girls to make their own life choices free from fear and violence.