GIRLS’ EDUCATION AND CHILD MARRIAGE IN WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA.

UNDERSTANDING AND ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE: INSIGHTS FROM HAUSA COMMUNITIES

 

BACKGROUND

Despite substantial progress over the last two decades, girls still have on average lower levels of educational attainment than boys in West and Central Africa. This is in part because every day, close to 6,000 girls in the region (2.1 million girls annually) are married while still children, often before they may be physically and emotionally ready to become wives and mothers. Girls’ educational attainment and child marriage are closely linked. Ending child marriage would improve girls’ educational attainment, and conversely, improving girls’ educational attainment would help reduce child marriage. This is why enabling adolescent girls to remain in school at the secondary level is one of the best ways to end child marriage, and ending child marriage is similarly essential to enable girls to remain in secondary school.

Low educational attainment and child marriage both affect girls’ life trajectories in profound ways. Girls marrying or dropping out of school early are more likely to experience poor health, have children at younger ages and more children over their lifetime, and earn less in adulthood. This makes it more likely that their household will live in poverty. Other risks for women associated with a lack of educational attainment and child marriage include intimate partner violence and lack of decisionmaking ability within the household. Fundamentally,
girls marrying or dropping out of school early are disempowered in ways that deprive them of their basic rights. This affects not only the girls themselves, but also their children. For example, children of very young mothers face higher risks of dying by age five, being malnourished, and doing poorly in school. Overall, the economic and social costs of girls marrying and dropping out of school early are large for individuals and at the level of communities and societies.

To catalyze attention and investments in West and Central Africa towards promoting girls’ education and ending child marriage, this note is part of a series that documents trends in girls’ educational attainment and child marriage in the region, the factors that lead girls to marry or drop out of school early, and the associated impacts on a wide range of development outcomes. Selected economic costs resulting from girls marrying and dropping out of school early are also estimated. Finally, policies and programs that could help end child marriage and improve girls’ educational attainment are discussed.

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