Access to education
India’s Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2009) focuses on the provision of free and compulsory education for children ages 6 to 14 years. The law requires ‘’the appropriate government to provide free elementary education in a neighbourhood school and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to every child in the six to fourteen age group.’’ The law provides for hiring ‘’appropriately trained’’ teachers and prohibits teacher’s use of physical punishment or mental harassment. This Act requires local authorities to monitor admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by every child residing in their jurisdiction. Local governments, panchayats, are required to keep records of admission, continuation, and completion of elementary education of all children over six years old in their area, in addition to monitoring to assure quality education. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights is charged with monitoring the effective implementation of the law. Regional governments are directed to appoint commissions as focal points to address grievances related to the implementation of the law. Watch a video about the landmark law.
See: Delaying Marriage for Girls in India: A Formative Research to Design Interventions for Changing Norms, ICRW, 2011.
South Sudan’s Child Act (2008) provides for free and compulsory primary education in the new nation. The Child Act also specifies that no girl can be expelled from school due to pregnancy and young mothers must be allowed to continue their education. As a result of the civil war, education was interrupted for thousands of youth in South Sudan. The country has initiated an alternative education system that allows pregnant girls and mothers to attend school – almost 70,000 women and girls participated in this program in 2011. The government is developing several policy actions to increase girls’ access to education including Girls Education Strategy from the Ministry of Education, a policy to encourage more women to become primary school teachers, and the development of a Life Skills curriculum to enhance the chances that girls will understand their rights and stay in school. See: “This Old Man Can Feed Us, You Will Marry Him”, Human Rights Watch, 2013, pp. 41-42.
Guidelines on Prevention
Promising Practices – Programs lead to drop in child marriage rates:
India: The Apni Beti Apni Dhan (Our Daughters, Our Wealth) is an innovative incentive program that gives money to poor families when a daughter is born and deposits money into a savings account. If the girl remains unwed at the age of 18, she can redeem the bond, with bonuses for completing certain levels of schooling. Likely due in part to Apni Beti, child marriage has dropped 18% between 1992 and 2006 in the region where the program is underway. For many girls, the program allows them to stay in school longer. The program also more generally aims to improve the perceived value of women in a country with a high incidence of sex-selective abortion and a pattern of female disadvantages in health and education. Programs like Apni Beti and other government supported schemes are trying to upend the current system and recognize that economics can play a major role both in shaping and changing the culture.
The Maharashtra Life Skills Program, also a regional program in India, brought at risk, 11-17 year old girls together four hour-long classes each day for a year to build their capacity on nutrition, child health, and literacy. Results of an evaluation showed that girls who participated in the program were substantially less likely to marry early, than girls who did not participate in the program. In program areas girls marrying under the age of 18 dropped from 80% to 61.8%, whereas there was no change in the control villages. See:IHMP, Increasing Age at Marriage in Rural Maharashtra, India; ICRW, Improving the Reproductive Health of Married and Unmarried Youth in India.
Ethiopia: The Berhane Hewan (“Light for Eve” in Amharic) in Ethiopia works to prevent child marriage by working with unmarried girls and those in child marriage. Although funded by UN and other bodies, the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Amhara Region Youth and Sports Bureau is the implementing machinery. Developed in consultation with the local community, the program targeted married and unmarried girls ages 10 to 19 in rural Ethiopia, providing them with mentoring from adult women in the community, economic incentives to remain in school, and improved access to reproductive health information and services. The project also reached out to families by facilitating monthly dialogues and teaching them skills, such as how to build better stoves—which, in turn, reduces the workload burden on married girls. An evaluation of the program compared villages receiving the program interventions from 2004 to 2006 to a control group of villages that did not received the intervention. In general, evaluators found increases in girls’ social networks, age at marriage, and reproductive health knowledge. The proportion of girls participating in Berhane Hewan who had ever married decreased from 10 percent to 2 percent. For girls ages 10 to 14 in the control group, the proportion who got married in the previous year increased from 2 percent to 5 percent, while none of the 10-to-14-year-olds in the program had married in the previous year. However, the evaluation also found that while young adolescents (10-14) in the program delayed marriage, older adolescents (15-19) were more likely to marry. These results suggest that the intervention was successful in delaying marriage age by a few years, but not delaying marriage all the way to age 18.
See: Population Reference Bureau, Who Speaks for Me? Ending Child Marriage, 2011, p. 4; Susan Lee-Rife, et al., What Works to Prevent Child Marriage: A Review of the Evidence, 43 Studies in Family Planning 2012, 287-303; Rachel Vogelstein, Ending Child Marriage (Council on Foreign Relations, 2013) pp. 14-15.
Next Topic Public awareness
Previous Topic Role of other Helping Professions and Stakeholders