Early marriage and pregnancies are major factors underpinning high maternal and child mortality rates in West and Central Africa. The prevalence of child marriage is higher in West and Central Africa than any other region in the world, with seven of the top ten countries with the highest rates of child marriage located here. There is substantial evidence that child marriage is a key driver of early sexual activity and early pregnancy. West and Central African countries also have the highest adolescent birth rates in the world, at close to 200 births per 1000 adolescent girls. The utilization of reproductive health services is generally low in the region and even lower among adolescents, whether married or unmarried.
Although child marriage and adolescent pregnancy remain pervasive across the developing world, there is promising evidence of decreasing rates in both early marriage and pregnancy, including in West and Central Africa. Recent data indicate a slow decline in child marriage prevalence in most countries in the region and adolescent pregnancy rates are also experiencing a downward trend in parts of the region, including in Senegal.
Despite increasing attention and programmatic efforts to address child marriage and adolescent pregnancy in West and Central Africa in recent years, little has been done to identify what factors lead to changes in attitudes and behaviors. ICRW’s study aimed to:
- Assess the relationship between child marriage and adolescent pregnancy
- Identify the factors that contribute to declines in child marriage and adolescent pregnancy in West and Central Africa
- Identify key actors that are best equipped to influence social behavior towards reducing early marriage and pregnancy
This research explored these issues with a particular focus on Senegal, using both quantitative and qualitative data.