Child Marriage in North Gondar Zone of Amhara Regional State, Ethiopia
Background This is a baseline study on the project "Combating Child Marriage in North Gondar Zone of Amhara Region, Ethiopia". It is conducted in six adjacent districts. Purpose/objective The specific objectives of the survey were to evaluate the causes of child marriage by exploring local knowledge, attitudes and practices. It aims to identify the measures taken by different sectors and community initiatives as a response to the problem, and understand existing resources and opportunities in the intervention areas. The study also point out the challenges for interventions and provide recommendation for practical intervention to sustainably abandon the practice from the intervention areas.Methodology This study combines both quantitative and qualitative research methods. One urban and two rural districts were selected for the study using purposive sampling method. Household surveys were used as a major source of baseline data targeting parents (men and women), teenage girls aged 10-18, and male young aged 15-24. The qualitative information was collected through 24 Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and 50 in-depth interviews with key informants (KII). A total of 1,623 people from 716 households participated through the survey questionnaire. Review of relevant literature was also used for supporting the findings. Key findings • Out that of the total 3,416 people in surveyed households, 57% of of those above 18 years of age were illiterate. Female’s illiteracy was much higher than male’s (46.4% of males against 68% females). Illiteracy among household members within the age bracket of 7-18 was 15.6%, while the illiteracy was higher in Tach Armachiho district as compared to other districts.• In 1991, 80.6 % of women and 25.5 % of men married before they reach age 18. After 2002, the prevalence of men marrying before 18 years of age has reduced to 3.6 %. The prevalence of women who married under 18 years of age was 53.8 %, showing only a slight improvement.• Only 53.6% of the respondents had heard information on child marriage related issues. Parents were less informed than their children, and adolescent girls were found relatively less informed than boys.• The major source of information for the majority of the population was non printed media: schools/teachers, education events at health facilities, community meetings/gatherings, radio and television were among the most common sources of information on child marriage.• The result indicated that among the respondents, 42.6% of men, 38.7% of women, and 56% of male youth reported that they were aware of the existence of a legal minimum age for marriage. Of those who expressed knowing the minimum legal age, only half of them were able to state age 18 as the legal minimum age of marriage for girls. Most respondents sawthat appropriate age of marriage for girls was 14 years while it was 18 years for boys.• More than two-third of the adolescent and 80% of the parents (both males and females) still have in their mind that child marriage has some advantages/benefits for girls and the family in general.• It was 44.2% of men and 34.4% of women who expressed that they knew the existence of the criminal code against child marriage. Among those who expressed knowing the criminal law most lack the details of what it contained.• The study revealed major gap on the enforcement of law. It was only 30% of the men and 27% of women who could recall at least one community member who was punished due to arranging child marriage, or cancelled arranged child marriage due to interference by the government and other community initiatives.• Child marriage was one of the major causes for school drop out of girls in studied woredas.• One of the major child protection concerns in the studied districts where that in one out of ten households there was a female member suffering from pregnancy and birth related complications, which were identified as “suspected fistula” by the respondents. Absence of effective and timely medical treatment for suspected fistula cases and other teenage pregnancy and birth related complications at the woreda level made girls more vulnerable to further complications. Recommendations • Designing culturally appropriate strategies through intensive community conversations and dialogues, visual and audio education materials and radio programs.• The community based initiatives, mainly by government sector offices, schools, community based groups, and churches in studied districts, should be explored further and built up.• Male community leaders and educators should be further involved in transmit messages against child marriage. Designing programs that support girls to enroll and retain in school, as well parents and the general public need to sensitize to support girls’ education.• Girls should be provided economic opportunities after they finish school. Skills trainings and micro-credit and saving services, can help in changing the beliefs among communities as well girls themselves whereby they consider marriage as their own option for survival.• Families who stand against the child marriage practice and delayed marriage for their children, and those girls who refused for child marriage should receive some form of recognition as role models.• Response intervention programs for those victims of child marriage should be designed. Comments from the organization, if any The baseline values of the project indicators will be used to set up Child Protection program, Monitor and Evaluation plan as well as to develop child protection databases.