In the More Than Brides Alliance learning project, research evidence is combined with implementation experience on the linkages between the adolescent sexuality of girls and child marriage. To capture the perspectives of girls and young women, the alliance implemented youth-led research in 5 countries: Mali, Ethiopia, Nepal, India, and Pakistan. In-country coordinators within the five countries were selected to oversee the implementation of youth-led research in their respective communities. You can read more about the youth-led research coordinators here.
Youth-Led Research is the meaningful and central participation of young people in all phases of research, from identifying relevant learning questions and methodology to study design, data collection, analyses, and reflections, to feed into programme implementation. The objective of the youth-led research within the MTBA learning project was to explore and understand the journeys of young girls when experiencing issues of sexuality and early marriage. By focusing on the stories of young girls, interpreted and presented by young people themselves, this research gathered valuable insights into promising pathways of change, drafting relevant recommendations for girl-driven programme designs.
Each youth-led research coordinator selected 15 – 20 youth researchers who participated in a series of workshops and activities spread over ten weeks. These workshops aimed to guide the young researchers on gathering the girls’ stories and experiences and exploring the broader challenges they face on issues of sexuality and early marriage. Moreover, young researchers were advised on how these experiences can be integrated into programming. The in-country coordinators supported the young participants throughout to ensure they reached their full potential as researchers. The graphic on the right shows the five workshops they followed. These workshops included analysing the data collected and reflecting on the results. Based on this, the young researchers designed and organised their follow-up actions.
Youth-led research reflections
The young researchers were very positive about their participation, which they experienced as both fun and purposeful. More details about the methodology and reflections from the young researchers can be found in this booklet.
Key reflections for future trajectories include:
- Keep it flexible; so that the research fits within the schedules of the young researchers.
- Constant assessment of the safety and well-being of researchers; especially since the researchers were working on a sensitive topic
- Acknowledge and build on the variety in guidance and mentorship: a wider network of coordinators and mentors can help broaden young people’s perspectives and create awareness of personal biases, especially during analysis and reflection.
- Strike a balance between freedom and parity of objectives: ensuring a balance for youth researchers to choose their focus while ensuring relevance for the overarching research topic.
Youth-led research results
In total, 73 youth researchers were part of the research process in the five countries. They conducted 309 interviews and 26 focus group discussions and collected several ‘life stories’ from young women and men, parents, teachers, religious leaders, community members, and other relevant stakeholders. This youth-led research helped confirm, expand and sometimes challenge common knowledge shared by communities, practitioners, researchers, and policy-makers. The table below summarises the youth-led research focus topics, tools, findings, and follow-up actions in the five focus countries. Key overarching recommendations that emerged from the research included:
- More girls and youth-driven programmes focusing on eliminating child marriage and other harmful practices that impact girls and women should be designed and implemented.
- Address communication gaps between girls and their parents about marriage and sexuality: Read more in this publication.
- Effective messaging to ensure communities are aware and agree on the importance of ending child marriages, for example, through religious leaders in Ethiopia or targeted messaging and dialogue about contraceptives in Mali.
- Support groups, clubs, volunteers: Researchers across the five countries mentioned that existing groups, clubs, and formal and informal institutions should be addressed to develop impactful inroads into the communities.
Detailed results and recommendations can be found in this results booklet.