Drivers of child marriage and how to make it stop
The majority of child brides lives in Asia, but the countries where the practice is most common are predominantly in Africa. Sudan is one of the African countries where child marriage is disconcertingly common. In close cooperation with Samia El Nagar and other colleagues associated with CMI through our Assisting regional universities in Sudan (ARUS) programme, our research director Liv Tønnessen has been studying the drivers of child marriage in several states in eastern Sudan for the past few years. They have mapped prevalence, traditions and norms, attitudes and interventions in Kassala, Algadaref and the Red Sea state.
Child marriage has received more attention in Sudan after the country presented its Universal Periodic Report to the UN in late 2016. It is also increasingly becoming part of the public agenda mainly due to the work on reforming the Muslim Personal Law from 1991. Yet, the research team has found that in the states they have studied, the number of child marriages is still discouragingly high. In Kassala and Algadaref almost half of the women now between 20 and 49 were married before they turned 18.
There are many and diverse drivers of child marriage. The complex web involves factors such economy, tradition, cultural norms and gender perspectives. Many interventions aimed at reducing the prevalence of child marriage fail because they do not take them sufficiently into account. Some fail because they use a top-down approach and do not engage with the communities. Some fail because they do not recognize the simple fact that there is a lack of funding to run schools that are considered safe for girls.
But there are also interventions that succeed, and there are signs that the prevalence of child marriage is slowly declining in some parts of the world. The main lesson for ending child marriage is: empower girls, mobilize the communities and families, provide girls and their families with the services they need, and change the policies and laws.
Read our reports and briefs for more information about our research on child marriage.