ENGAGE (Enabling Girls to Advance Gender Equity)

Adolescent Girls, Adolescents and Youth, Child Marriage

In Malawi, 42 percent of girls and 7 percent of boys are married before the age of 18. Especially for women, child marriage poses lifelong risks of poor health, lower educational achievement, limited opportunities for economic advancement and reduced decision-making power. In Southern Malawi, harmful traditional practices such as kusasa fumbi, forced sexual initiation, increase the risk and exacerbate the effects of child marriage. In spite of recent governmental efforts to ban marriage before the age of 18, the level of enforcement is unclear and the practice continues.

In 2016, Rise Up of the Public Health Institute (PHI), the Girls Empowerment Network of Malawi (GENET), ETR’s Youth Tech Health (YTH) Initiative, YONECO and ICRW, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, launched the Enabling Girls to Advance Gender Equity (ENGAGE) program. The program trains girls in leadership, advocacy and local and national laws and policies. In addition, it empowers leaders of civil society organizations (CSOs) to create and implement local by-laws prohibiting harmful practices within their districts and intends to shift social norms and community acceptance of child marriage. ICRW serves as the research partner and is evaluating ENGAGE’s impact on community attitudes, norms and practices around child marriage, as well as related beliefs toward girls’ education, sexual and reproductive health and rights and traditional initiation practices.

What Did We Set Out to Do?

  • Measure attitudes of decision-makers and duty bearers of girls related to child marriage at baseline and at endline
  • Evaluate ENGAGE’s impact on community and household attitudes
  • Understand and assess the program’s rollout and reception by participants and the broader community

What Methods Did We Use?

  • Baseline and endline household survey with duty bearers of adolescent girls in intervention and control communities
  • Qualitative in-depth interviews at midline and endline with participant girls and CSOs
  • Key informant interviews with local stakeholders at midline and endline in intervention and control communities


Duration: 2016-2020
Funder: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Partners: Rise Up, The Girls’ Empowerment Network (GENET) of Malawi
Project Director: Laura Hinson
Project Countries: Malawi

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