Community dialogues, Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda – Actively involving communities in the fight against child marriage
SCOEN has developed and refined Community Dialogues “Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda”as a set of participatory methodologies to surface community perspectives on issues affecting children especially a girl child on child marriage. We engage in participatory dialogues with their communities to understand how people, things, and spaces in their community were affecting a girl child’s well-being.
We asked the following two key questions of both adults and children: -
- What do communities identify as their challenges and assets in supporting children?
- What are the factors in children’s lives that support and harm them?
Through the Community Dialogue process, we worked with their communities to explore:
- Physical contexts in which children spend time in their communities
- Community factors that protect and support their safety and wellbeing
- Community factors which endanger and harm their safety and wellbeing
- Perspective differences between adults and children
- Potential for community mobilization to build on strengths and to address challenges in improving children’s safety and wellbeing
Why are the Community Dialogues Important?
the Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda Community Dialogues process include a variety of participatory methods—for both children and adults—that we choose from according to what they feel is appropriate for the context and the participants. our funding cluster, the community dialogues were conducted before the rest of the work even started because they provide an important way for communities to question their existing paradigms, construct their own solutions and sustain them over time.
Overall, our findings suggested communication initiatives involving school- and community-basedopportunities fordialogue and reflection constituted important avenues to start shifting discriminatory gender norms, but more strategic,multi-pronged approaches would be required to achieve more trans-formatory change.
Key lessons learnt
- Programming that is segmented by age and life stage makes it possible to carefully tailor messages.given thedifferent roles of mothers and fathers in perpetuating child marriage and the different developmental needsof adolescents of different ages.
- Peer-to-peer training can be very powerful if facilitators receive adequate training.
- Strong coordination between government structures and NGOs is crucial for success,to work directly at community level following the Ethiopian Charities and Societies Proclamation of 2009.
- Awareness-raising about the law against child marriage is a necessary but insufficient condition for combating childmarriage.
- Local elders, especially the men who generally uphold social norms,community conversations and awareness-raising efforts.
- Improving incentives (including low-cost items such as t-shirts or tea/coffee) to engage in communitydialogue initiatives may motivate more community members to attend.
- Well-managed girls’ clubs can provide emotional support and role models for girls, both crucial ingredients in
- Continuous programme M&E can build strong – and responsive – programming.
- Menstrual management schemes can improve both girls’ school attendance and their academic performance.It canalso reduce the risk of school dropout.
- Parents and communities need to be directly targeted through programming efforts rather than relying solely on the spill-over effects of school-based programming if social norm change is to be a rea
- Strong coordination with the Amhara Women’s Association has improved grassroots uptake.
- Creative and innovative mediums – such as drama – are generating community dialogues around the value of girls,
- often for the first time.
- 3. Good M&E between programme implementers and coordinators has promoted positive impacts in sites where there is a face-to-face programming component.
- 4. one on one approach is an effective way to transmit messages, although care needs to be taken to avoid meeting fatigue
- by applying innovative media tools.
- 5. Programming should proactively target boys/men and encourage them to support the emergence of more equitable gender norms.
Social platform recommendation
Conclusions in With regard to child marriage: Social norms that focus on girls’ sexual purity push both parents and girls towards child marriage, with marriage considered prestigious for girls’ parents and unmarried girls facing stigma.
- Local elders and religious leaders are often gatekeepers of these norms, in some communities holding them in placeand in others encouraging change.
- Overall, girls’ education helps delay marriage, in part because schooling locates girls as children and in part because itempowers them to make better decisions about their own lives.
- With tailored education, fathers and brothers can be critical allies, helping girls stay in school and unmarried.
- Marriage is often merely a default option. In many cases, girls marry solely because they have left school, do not have access to either land or their own paid employment and are resented by their parents for their ‘idleness’.
- While in most communities ‘good’ girls are those who listen to their parents, there are nascent shifts in decision-making, with parents allowing girls to choose their own partners and time their own marriages.
- Health extension programming – and the 1-to-5 community groups that have ultimately grown out of it – have been vital to expanding community awareness about the risks of child marriage because of their effective grassroots penetration.
- Both legal awareness (about the age of marriage) and legal enforcement are patchy. In many communities, the marriageof 15 year olds is not considered child marriage. In others, an increasing reliance on ‘hidden’ marriages means child marriage continues unabated.
Conclusions with regard to education:
- • Uptake of primary education is increasing rapidly, although, owing to both costs and parents’ concerns about girls’sexual purity, access to secondary school remains very limited.
- Parents’ reliance on girls’ domestic labour limits their schooling. Girls are made to miss school more than boys and arenot given sufficient time to study school lessons or do homework.
- Girls’ interest in education and employment is expanding. While migration and marriage continue to attract manygirls, especially in communities without strong role models, most girls now aspire to high school.
- Parents’ and men’s interest in girls’ education is expanding, with parents wanting to foster their daughters’ self-relianceand men preferring to marry educated girls and women.
- School clubs can transform girls’ lives. They build confidence and voice and can radically alter girls’ aspirations,especially when they are combined with programming that reaches parents and other social norm gatekeepers – and do not exclude boys.
- Adolescent girls need more educational options. Those who do not attend high school, or who fail their primary seven exams, need training opportunities that will help them achieve the independence that will allow them to delaymarriage.
The notes were qualitatively analyzed for themes relating to the key questions, and the following major findings relevant to child protection emerged:
- The home and school contexts—where children spend most of their time—remain key spaces to target in child protection efforts.
- Adequate provisions, resources, and facilities are fundamental to supporting children’s health, safety, and wellbeing. Within the home, this means ensuring the presence of basic physical necessities and positive socio-emotional relationships between parents and children. At school, this means promoting a sense of belonging, clean and safe environments, recreational activities such as games and sports, and good interpersonal relationships.
- Social-emotional climates and interpersonal relationships should be a key target area for child protection strategies.
- Girls and children with disabilities are disproportionately affected by harmful factors in their environments. Girls are particularly harmed by sexual abuse at school, sexual activity and early pregnancy, gender-specific barriers to educational achievement, and gender-specific norms at home. Children with disabilities are ignored and sometimes even abused in their environment. Strategies to protect children and improve wellbeing must address these factors.