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Child marriage practice and governance programme mapping in Ethiopia

​Child marriage (marriage below 18 years) is a widespread practice affecting both the physical and psychological wellbeing and development of millions of girls in Ethiopia. There is growing momentum - globally and in Ethiopia - to increase efforts to bring an end to child marriage, acknowledging that the practice is a violation of human rights.

The practice is declining, with Ethiopia's Demographic and Health Survey indicating that child marriage is less prevalent in areas where greater economic and social opportunities are available to girls. This underlies the importance of strengthening and expanding work on girls’ education beyond the primary level, improving girls’ access to reproductive health information and services, and tackling discriminatory social norms.

Funded by UNICEF Ethiopia, ODI’s Social Development Programme - together with colleagues from Social Affairs Consultancy Ethiopia and Addis Ababa University - have undertaken groundbreaking research using the national census data, as well as complementary qualitative research across 22 districts in seven regional states to better understand the patterns and drivers of child marriage. Girl Hub and DFID Ethiopia provided supplementary funding to broaden the scope of the analysis and research findings.

The central purpose of this research project is to contribute to the evidence base underpinning the recently-formed National Alliance to End Child Marriage in Ethiopia by 2025, spearheaded by the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, and its ambitious goal to eliminate the practice within ten years. Five specific aims of the project are as follows:

  • To develop an evidence base on the national patterning of child marriage;
  • To understand how and why this patterning diverges across and within regional states;
  • To identify the economic and social drivers underpinning child marriage in Ethiopia, both generally and more specifically in up to 10 hotspot woredas (districts);
  • To provide an analysis of the consequences of child marriage on girls’ broader wellbeing;
  • To draw lessons from a review of good practice interventions aimed at tackling child marriage directly and indirectly in Ethiopia that could potentially be taken to scale.

Led by Dr Nicola Jones, Senior Research Fellow in the Social Development Programme at ODI, the research team has presented preliminary findings to the National Girls Summit in Ethiopia 2015, followed by meetings with regional stakeholders. 


David Walker

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