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.


Blog post | 2018

The Monkey Cage at the Washington Post: Why Campaigns to Stop Child Marriage Can Backfire

The #MeToo movement has helped create a global spotlight on campaigns to end sexual harassment and assault, human trafficking and child marriage. These movements add to a growing emphasis on girls’ rights,...
Ragnhild L. Muriaas, University of Bergen, Vibeke Wang, Chr. Michelsen Institute, Lindsay Benstead, Portland State University, Boniface Dulani, University of Malawi, Lise Rakner, University of Bergen/Chr. Michelsen Institute (2018)
(The Monkey Cage at the Washington Post)
Journal Article | 2019

Why the Gender of Traditional Authorities Matters: Intersectionality and Women's Rights Advocacy in Malawi

Ragnhild Muriaas, Vibeke Wang, Lindsay Benstead, Boniface Dulani, Lise Rakner (2019)
in Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 52, Issue 12, 1881-1924
Report in External Series | 2017

It Takes a Female Chief: Gender and Effective Policy Advocacy in Malawi

Traditional leadership often coexists with modernpolitical institutions, yet we know little about how traditional and state authority cues—or those from male or female sources—affect public support for human rights issues....
Ragnhild L. Muriaas, Vibeke Wang, Lindsay J. Benstead, Boniface Dulani and Lise Rakner (2017)
Gothenburg: The Program on Governance and Local Development, University of Gothenburg no. Working Paper No. 11
Sudan Brief | 2018

Child marriage and education in Eastern Sudan

A new understanding that educating girls' does not constrain their marriage potential is emerging in eastern Sudan. Girls who continue their education and their families are role models who challenge...
Liv Tønnessen and Samia al-Nagar (2018)
Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute (Sudan Brief no. 2018:01) 4 p.
Sudan Report | 2018

Community Views on Child Marriage in Kassala: Prospects for Change

Child marriage is any formal marriage or informal union where one or both parties are under 18 years of age. Child marriage affects both boys and girls, but disproportionately affects...
Samia El Nagar, Manal Mahjoub, Adil Idris, Liv Tønnessen (2018)
Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute (Sudan Report SR 2018:1)
Journal Article | 2018

Counter-mobilization against child marriage reform in Africa

Legislating a minimum age of marriage at 18 has stirred counter-mobilization in some, but not all, countries where religious or traditional institutions enjoy constitutional authority. To explore differences between states...
Ragnhild L. Muriaas, Liv Tønnessen, Vibeke Wang (2018)
in Political Studies, first published online: December 1, 2017 vol. 66 no. 4 pp. 851-868
Sudan Brief | 2018

Drivers of child marriage in eastern Sudan

There are several causes that contribute to child marriage in eastern Sudan, including poverty, lack of education for girls, avoiding stigma and the legality of child marriage. However, tradition and...
Liv Tønnessen and Samia al-Nagar (2018)
Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute (Sudan Brief 2018:02) 4 p.