About Us

About Us

Project Overview

Child marriage is an internationally recognized human rights violation which rob girls of their childhood, their education and their options and opportunities in life. Bangladesh has the third-highest rate of child marriage in the world, with two-thirds of females marrying under 18 years and one-third marrying under the age of 15 years*. The problem represents a serious threat to the public health and development prospects of the country.

The Prime Minister declared in Girl Child Summit 2014, that ending child marriage was a national priority. There has been a small decline in the last 15 years but this is more likely due to urban and economic transition rather than because of the interventions taking place. Despite a lot of activity and press coverage, the problem still persists on an enormous scale.

Our research project is investigating the underlying issues that lead to early, child and forced marriages in the contexts of urban slums, the ways in which child marriage impacts and changes girls’ lives, and seeking to identify ‘what works’ in terms of existing health, legal, behavioural and livelihood interventions related to child marriage.

Core project activities include collecting qualitative and survey data in two specially selected slum settlements over a period of 14 months, and identifying all laws and statutes, and their ambiguities, relating ECM. We are also organizing outreach activities and creating communication materials to translate the results of the study for the benefit of program designers, policy makers, donors, community leaders and the wider public.

Early marriage situation in Bangladesh  (Child marriage prevalence changes over time: a graphical representation) 


Purpose of this study

The effectiveness of current interventions is limited by the lack of knowledge about the nature of child marriage in the context of urban slums. After extensive discussions with key stakeholders who are active in child marriage prevention programming (including BRAC, BLAST, Population Council, and Plan International), we have identified a range of issues and puzzles that prevent these organizations from providing more effective, accessible, and context-specific programming to address the structural issues (social, cultural, economic) that influence ECM in urban slums. 

A central objective of this project is to identify the specific realities of life in urban slums that lead families to choose early marriage for their daughters or lead adolescents to choose early marriage for themselves. 
We will also investigate what circumstances allow some young women to stay unmarried into adulthood. 

We will then share this knowledge with stakeholders in both the government and NGO sector, and assist our partners to apply this knowledge to future programme planning. 

With more robust evidence on the nature of ECM in urban slums, our partners will be better equipped to design relevant interventions which address the hardships faced by unmarried and married adolescents, and to also address the structural issues of poverty and access to education, ultimately aiming to reduce the prevalence of child marriage in the country.

Methodology/Study Design

This study uses a sequential exploratory mixed methods design to explore the phenomenon of early and child marriage in two urban slums, one in Dhaka and one in Chittagong. 

The study is being implemented using a sequential exploratory mixed methods design, consisting of two distinct data collection phases in each location. In the first phase (following a pre-test period), the qualitative data will be collected in an iterative manner using a mixture of focus group discussions (minor), in-depth individual interviews (major), and key informant interviews with stakeholders.

The sampling strategy for participants in qualitative data collection is detailed in the table: 1 below and shows that in-depth interviews will make up the largest part of this phase.

A number of respondents from qualitative interviews will be selected for follow-up to allow us to develop in-depth case studies of their experiences and situation over the entire period of fieldwork and ongoing informal observation will be added with the information. Case respondents will be selected to maximise diversity. In the second phase, a survey will be conducted in each location with two distinct sample groups in each field site. 

Study Sites

The proposed study will be conducted in two purposively selected slums: one in Dhaka North City Corporation and one in Chittagong City Corporation, namely Bhashantek in central Dhaka and possibly Shanti Nagar slum in Chittagong. 

Collectively Dhaka & Chittagong have the largest number of slums (70%) in the country


Bhashantek is a large slum covering 48 acres of land, and housing approximately 9208 households, with a total population estimated to be 31,535. Of these, there are 15,710 women and 15,825 males.

Just over 10 percent of the population (3295) are aged between 12-19 years, split almost equally between males (1679) and females (1616). Bhashantek’s central location in Dhaka and its relatively stable population suggests that its residents will be representative of a range of the most urbanized of Dhaka’s slum dwellers. 

Chittagong, in the south east of Bangladesh, is the country’s second largest city and a major seaport. Although it is the second city, it is known for being more conservative and less cosmopolitan than Dhaka.

Chittagong was chosen as a contrast to Dhaka and because its population is also growing at a fast rate. Certainly, the number of recorded slums in Chittagong has grown from 186 in 1997 to 2216 in the 2014 Slum Census (BBS 2015). However, very little research has been done in Chittagong, especially in the urban slum settlements, meaning that there is much to discover. 



6489 slums

3305 slums

Capital city

Port city, second largest after Dhaka

High levels of NGO interventions

No. of NGO interventions is less than Dhaka

Modernization & creeping conservatism

Extremely conservative

Push-pull: 1000 migrant workers a day 

Employment centered around industrial
zones; lack of opportunities in
rural parts within Ctg. 

Study Respondents:

About JPG school

BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health was founded in 2004 in Dhaka, Bangladesh to address the unmet public health challenges particular to Asia, Africa and South America.

In realizing that developing country public health needs require immersive, community based teaching and learning to provide locally innovated research and sustainable health solutions, the School's Institutional partners are: 

  • BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, reaching over 100 million people in Bangladesh and working in 9 countries in Africa and Asia
  • Icddr,b, a leading international health research institute, which fosters innovation in the development and delivery of global life-saving solutions

The School is at BRAC University, a premier higher education and development research institution. It draws from Bangladesh’s remarkable public health achievements as well as BRAC Health’s nationwide services and BRAC International’s Health programmes in South Asia and Africa. JPGSPH therefore offers unparalleled real-life, community-centric teaching, learning and research experiences on critical and emerging national and global public health challenges.

The School applies an interdisciplinary integration of Education, Training, Research and Advocacy to diverse health challenges such as, Maternal & Reproductive Health, Nutrition, Gender Equity, Sanitation, Non-communicable Diseases, Urbanisation and Climate Change.  Thereby positioning JPGSPH to lead and innovate public health learning, investigation, policy and implementation.
The School builds capacity by preparing individuals to become public health leaders, practitioners, critical thinkers, researchers, advocates, and stewards of public health and policy at local, national and international levels.
For more information please visit the school website http://sph.bracu.ac.bd/


Comprehensive Literature Review

Nov 2015 - Jan 2016

Formative Planning Meetings with Partner Organizations stakeholders

Feb 2016 - Apr 2016

Development of Qualitative guidelines & survey questionnaire

May 2016 - July 2016

Pre-testing tools in pilot location

May 2016-July 2016

Scientific & Ethical Review Committee approval

Aug 2016 - Oct 2016

Developing fieldwork plans

Aug 2016- Oct 2016

1st round of Dhaka fieldwork & qualitative data collection

Nov 2016 - Jan 2017

This study will use qualitative methods to assess how the combination of services currently offered by BRAC ADP and BLAST’s Shokhi project influence decisions surrounding ECM in the context of larger structural issues that affect urban slum communities.

BRAC’s Adolescent Development Programme

The BRAC Adolescent Development Programme (ADP) was established in 1993 as part of BRAC’s education programme for older children. The programme’s initial focus was establishing Adolescent Clubs (called Kishori Kendro) that provided a space for adolescent girls to socialize, sing, dance, read, and discuss adolescence-related issues with their peers(BRAC, 2012).

The clubs are made up of 25-35 adolescent girls, ages 10-19, and are run by a peer leader (called Kishori Netris), who receives training on how to operate the club and facilitate the programmes. 

Colleagues from BRAC ADP have highlighted the need to better understand how community members perceive the services provided by the ADP, and if the availability of these services is a factor that affects decision-making about early child marriage. Research is also needed to understand how the services provided by BRAC ADP are adapting to the unique social environment of urban slums. 

SHOKHI Project run by BLAST: Women’s Health Rights and Choices 

The second partner programme, Shokhi, is being implemented by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) with a consortium of three implementing organizations: Amrai Pari (We Can), Bangladesh Women’s Health Coalition (BWHC) and Marie Stopes Bangladesh (MSB). Shokhi was launched in 2013 and will run until 2017.

The prevalence of ECM in Shokhi’s target population is high, and many of the services that Shokhi provides attempt to address the social, economic, and health consequences of ECM. Conversations with key stakeholders suggest that the majority of the married women who come to Shokhi seeking health and legal services were married before the age of 18.

Furthermore, legal services are most often sought to address interpersonal violence (IPV), often related to unpaid or insufficient dowries. In addition to addressing the health and social consequences of ECM, Shokhi also aims to prevent ECM by providing community education on the dangers of ECM.

Specifically, Shokhi engages community leaders and kazis (local marriage registrars), educating them on the laws surrounding ECM and the legal consequences of performing ECMs. 

Why we chose 

One of a kind intervention that offers a combination of
health and legal services for women in urban slums 
The largest  and highest ranked NGO in the world
  • Enormous reach (grassroots) and scale
  • Trusted  by communities
  • Relevant target group


SHOKHI BRAC Adolescent Development Programme (ADP)  BRAC  Skill Training for Advancing Resources (STAR)
Project Duration: 2013-2017 Established in 1993 Established in 2012
Target group: women Age group is 10-19 years Age group 14-18 years
Offers combined legal and health service in 15 urban slums of Dhaka 9,000 clubs across Bangladesh Target group: poor adolescents
Coalition of 4 partners
  • Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) 
  • Amrai Pari (We Can Alliance)
  • Bangladesh Women’s Health Coalition (BWHC)
Safe spaces for 250,000 adolescents Provide life skills training and provide job to them; parlor training,
mechanical training, housekeeping, trader. 
Marie Stopes Bangladesh (MSB) Provides access to library, life skills education and organizes sports for
development and cultural activities
7,500 learners all over Bangladesh; 1200 in Dhaka 



Child marriage is an internationally recognized human rights violation which robs girls of their childhood, their education and their options and opportunities in life.