The highest rates of child marriage in the world are in Niger, which also ranks last of 188 countries on the Human Development Index (UNICEF 2015). In Niger, 76.3% of girls are married by 18 and 28% by age 15. These rates are accompanied by high rates of adolescent childbearing (209 births per 1000 females between 15-19), maternal mortality (630 deaths per 100,000 live births) and infant mortality (59.9 per 1000 live births) (UNPD 2015). Niger also has the highest adolescent fertility rates in the region: 204.8 births per every 1000 females 15-19 (UNPD 2015). Early marriage undoubtedly plays an important role in this. Among all women 20-24, 27% report having had sex by age 15. By age 18, 76.7% had sex. In rural areas these numbers are even higher: 31.4% of those 20-24 had sex by age 15 and 84.9% by age 18. First sex and childbearing occur in quick succession; DHS analyses suggest that childbearing occurs almost exclusively within marriage (DHS 2012; UNICEF 2015).
As the research partner the Population Council is working towards two goals– a complete analysis and description of the context of child marriage and an assessment of what works by reviewing collected data and other data, including secondary data analysis.
The MTBA works to reach girls at risk of child marriage and girls already married with the aim to delay the age of marriage as well as the first pregnancy, by providing services, resources, opportunities and options to enable them to make a conscious choice.
By creating adolescent safe spaces for girls and boys, the program trains adolescents for peer education, promotes radio debates, LSE, CSE, SRH services, it fights harmful practices and supports female leadership. The program also supports strengthening community based and formal child protection systems.
To prevent and track school dropout as well creating a conducive environment for girls to remain at school, the program works with a multiple layered approach. That ranges from raising awareness among parents and community members and providing training for Parents Teacher’s Associations (PTAs), School Boards and Children’s School Governments, to promoting school safety and removing potential barriers for adolescents to stay at school. Also, the approach focusses on promoting inclusive equality education and on child safeguarding policies and protection. Edutainment strategies -compelling drama and educational messages- are developed and implemented to challenge behaviour and norms around child marriage.
The program supports girls and their families with appropriate social and economic incentives, life skills, IGA opportunities and promoting group-based savings.
In Niger, Save the Children and Oxfam work to implement the program through SOS FEVVF and ANBEF Tillabery districts, and SongES, ASEC Mungane, ADD Fassali, ANBEF and “le service de protection” in Maradi.