Girls Lead: Ending Child Marriage during COVID-19

Tawhida Haq Mitu, a young woman in Bangladesh who has participated in a CARE training programme

Governments, NGOs, and society at large must work towards the end of child marriage, but it is also critical to recognise the power of girls to lead the way to end this practice in their own communities. UNFPA estimates that 13 million more child marriages could take place by 2030 than would have prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, programmes that work to end child marriage are unable to operate due to shelter-in-place directives. However, girl activists, within their own communities, are able to subversively challenge the norms and attitudes that put them at risk for child marriage.

In this new blog on CARE Insights, CARE’s Tipping Point Initiative, explains how it trained girl activists and their communities earlier this year and continues to remotely support girl-led change.

Joint Statement and Recommendations
By the Child, Early & Forced Marriage & Unions & Sexuality Working Group, & Partners

The global pandemic COVID-19 lays bare and exacerbates existing inequalities. For adolescent girls and young women in many places, this means that the harmful impacts of patriarchy and gender inequality are magnified and intensified. The coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns heighten the perpetration of gender-based violence; elevate risks of child, early and forced marriage and unions (CEFMU); reduce mobility and spaces for mutual support and solidarity; increase the burden of unpaid care work; and, in some cases, raise the likelihood of girls staying out of school compared with boys—to name only some of the consequences.

The increased rights violations and impacts on the lives of adolescent girls and young women will not necessarily recede after the peak of the pandemic. And even if they did, we cannot accept a return to “pre-COVID” levels of inequality—we have to aim higher. We must continue working toward and investing in a feminist vision where young women and adolescent girls—in all their diversity—are free and equipped to choose their own futures.

We are calling on funders of all types and sizes—foundations, governments and others—to stand with adolescent girls and young women during and after this global pandemic. This means taking a human rights-based, gender-responsive approach during the crisis, and funding and supporting gender-transformative approaches over the long term. This is the only way to effectively tackle the root causes of the inequalities adolescent girls and young women face everywhere.

The Child, Early & Forced Marriage & Unions, and Sexuality Working Group* and Partners: Aahung, American Jewish World Service*, CARE*, CREA, Firelight Foundation, Global Fund for Women*, Girls First Fund, Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage*, GreeneWorks*, International Center for Research on Women*, International Women’s Health Coalition*, The Kendeda Fund, MADRE*, Nirantar Trust*, Plan International*, Population Council*, Promundo*, The Summit Foundation, UNFPA, UNICEF, and The YP Foundation

CEFM Learning Exchange-May Newsletter and Webinar

Welcome back to the biannual CEFM Learning Xchange Newsletter! We hope this finds you safe and well during this unprecedented time.

In this edition of the Learning Xchange, you can read how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting child, early and forced marriage (CEFM), access new tools for engaging communities in dialogue and research, learn about staff transformation processes in CEFM programming, and find some inspiration to keep you going in this journey. Please peruse and enjoy!

You can stay engaged with the CEFM Learning Xchange through workplace, this listserv and our webinars.

In Solidarity, Tipping Point Initiative 

COVID-19 and Child Marriage

Poverty, inequity, and gender-based violence are increasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All of these factors are known to be root causes of CEFM. At the same time, programs that work to end CEFM are not able to operate normally due to shelter-in-place directives. Check out some resources that can help us navigate CEFM programming during this challenging time.

Girls Not Brides Agenda for Action on Coronavirus and CEFM (available in English, Spanish, and French)

Resources on COVID-19 and GBV in general

New from TP

Inter-group Dialogues for Gender and Social Norms Change Brief

This technical brief provides an overview of the way that Tipping Point facilitates inter-group dialogues by bringing together girls, boys and parents to share reflections in a way that links to the sessions each group is doing separately. This brief accompanies Tipping Point’s Inter-Group Dialogue implementation manual, which contains session facilitation guides and pointers for frontline workers.

Community Participatory Analysis Toolkit

The Tipping Point Community Participatory Analysis (CPA) Study was designed to deepen understanding of the contextual factors and root causes driving the prevalence of CEFM in a particular region of Bangladesh which has high rates of the practice. The collection of tools used in this study in Bangladesh are made available for adaptation publicly. These tools were used as part of the formative research for the Tipping Point Initiative Phase 1 in Sunamganj, Bangladesh.

Tipping Point RCT: Baseline Reports

The results are in! Tipping Points’ RCT baseline evaluation, measuring the rates of child marriage, adolescent girls’ agency and social norms in Bangladesh and Nepal demonstrate the key drivers of child, early and forced marriage in Tipping Point program areas, and contain recommendations for policy and practice.

Staff Transformation

CEFM Learning Xchange released a webinar on Staff transformation covering both Social Analysis and Action and Gender, Equity, and Diversity trainings. 

For those who were not able to attend, please check out the recording (password: 1U*ly&M7)  and the slide presentation

The 3 takeaways that people working to end CEFM should take away from the webinar are:

  1. Staff at all levels need a safe space to reflect and challenge their own biases and norms related to gender, sexuality, and rights for effective programming.
  2. In order for SAA and GED to be effective, staff members must feel safe to surface their real thoughts, feelings, and fears – especially as they relate to sexuality, as this is often a taboo subject.
  3. Staff transformation does not usually happen as a result of one training, but staff should have space for periodic and consistent group reflection as a part of their job.

A few resources related to this webinar:

Inspiration for the Journey

Working toward gender justice and against CEFM can be difficult and personal. Check out three things that the Learning Xchange hopes will inspire you to keep up the work, and to do it with health and happiness!

  • Safety and Sexuality: “Safety and Sexuality… in these uncertain times of COVID-19 when most of the world is in some form or other of quarantine, safety has taken on a new meaning all together.” Tipping Point’s Gender Advisor Suniti Neogy contributes to this month’s issue of TARSHI’s In Plainspeak online magazine on the topic of safety and sexuality.
  • The face of feminism is no longer just white and middle class: “Middle-class, white women still seem to gain the most visibility because of their privilege. Yet, the reality is changing. Activism is no longer just the domain of the privileged, but has become the duty of the oppressed.” This Al Jazeera op-ed illustrates how the dominant narratives within feminism are now less dominated by those of middle-class white women.
  • Though it can be hard to see past the daily deluge of devastating headlines, there is plenty of good news in the world right now — and a great deal of interest in reading it. This article highlights where you can check out some happy and true headlines. 

Safety and Sexuality

“Safety and Sexuality… in these uncertain times of COVID-19 when most of the world is in some form or other of quarantine, safety has taken on a new meaning all together.”

Tipping Point’s Gender Advisor Suniti Neogy contributes to this month’s issue of TARSHI’s In Plainspeak online magazine- on the topic of safety and sexuality.