Child marriage1 is a multi-faceted socio-cultural and endemic Human Rights violation which adversely impacts the physical, psychological, emotional and intellectual development of boys and girls in Zambia. Zambia is among the top 20 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world and 3rd highest in Sub-Sahara Africa in teen pregnancies with 45% of women aged 25-49 years having been married by the age of 182 and 143 per 1000 15-19 year old girls falling pregnant before the age of 183. Although Zambia is committed to reducing early marriages and teen pregnancies, negative dominant social norms about gender and power relations that shape attitudes of girls and boys, traditional leaders, parents and community members, remain the main challenge.
Project Description and Objective:
The innovation titled “Changing Communities - One Family at a time” seeks to contribute to the reduction in teenage pregnancies and prevention of child marriages in Zambia. It is centered on the family unit with community members mobilized into Community Advocacy Groups (CAGs) as support structures. Selected families will be sensitized on the harmful effects of child marriage and teen pregnancies as well as provided with rigorous capacity building sessions to groom them into Gender Transformative Model families. CAGs will act as catalysts of change and will accompany and monitor the selected families in the process. This innovation is attractive to stakeholders as it creates a platform for honest interrogation of dominant social norms without threatening family cohesion while challenging communities to define alternative gender transformative attitudes and behaviors.
Major Results Achieved:
- 25 families (222 persons – 113 F, 109 M) empowered to advocate for and take action on ending child marriages / teen pregnancies;
- 35 dropouts (31 girls and 4 boys) from the 5 pilot schools reentered the school within the 3 months;
- 623 people (321 F, 322 M) sensitized on harmful social norms and drivers of child marriage and teen pregnancies;
- 40 CAG members (20 F, 20 M) improved knowledge and skills in psycho-social counselling, tracking girls in child marriages and implementing affirmative policies, e. g. re-entry policy, Education Act and Anti-GBV Act;
- 14 traditional / community leaders (1 F, 13 M) sensitized and empowered to take action on ending child marriages / teen pregnancies.
Major SDG Acceleration Lever: Changing social norms and behaviours.
Lessons Learned and Way Forward:
Teen/child marriages remain major contributor to high school dropouts in Zambia among rural communities. Changing culture by challenging dominant social norms/practices takes a long time. This initiative is a long-term investment, and NCA, in partnership with FAWEZA, will be using the momentum to consolidate and deepen the initiative in target schools, replicate the initiative within the district and scale up the initiative to most needy districts in Zambia. Multi-sectoral / integrated approach (providing natural spaces (like schools & churches) for girls’ engagement, using hotlines to report the cases of early child marriages, sensitizing on sexual and reproductive health, etc.) needs to be applied to influence and enact respective public policies (National Strategy on Ending Child Marriages).
Media Coverage and Knowledge Products:
- Changing Communities: One Family at a Time, a blog post by SDGPP (Oct 2017).
About Norwegian Church Aid:
Norwegian Church Aid is an ecumenical diaconal organization for global justice, that works to help the poorest and those in need, regardless of their creed, race, political or religious affiliation.
For more information, please visit https://www.kirkensnodhjelp.no/en/where-we-work/zambia/
1 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines child marriage as a formal or informal union before the age of 18 years.
2 Zambia Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) 2013-2014
3 ZDHS 2013-2014
Photo credit: DFID