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.
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.
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.
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.
Port city, second largest after Dhaka
High levels of NGO interventions
No. of NGO interventions is less than Dhaka
Modernization & creeping conservatism
Push-pull: 1000 migrant workers a day
Employment centered around industrial
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:
Comprehensive Literature ReviewNov 2015 - Jan 2016
Formative Planning Meetings with Partner Organizations stakeholdersFeb 2016 - Apr 2016
Development of Qualitative guidelines & survey questionnaireMay 2016 - July 2016
Pre-testing tools in pilot locationMay 2016-July 2016
Scientific & Ethical Review Committee approvalAug 2016 - Oct 2016
Developing fieldwork plansAug 2016- Oct 2016
1st round of Dhaka fieldwork & qualitative data collectionNov 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
|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
||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|