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India: Institute Health Management Pachod (IHMP) runs a project to protect married and unmarried girls from the consequences of early marriage, early conception as well as sexual and domestic violence. Guatemala: Population Council runs “Abriendo Oportunidades”, a project that addresses child marriage by promoting education, running mentorship programmes, and providing adolescent girls in rural areas information on sexual and reproductive health. Nepal: Aura Freedom International and Apeiron run female-friendly spaces in post-earthquake Nepal, providing displaced women and girls with information, services, and ways to report violence including child marriage. Many families and communities see child marriage as a deeply rooted practice which has been part of their culture for generations.Whether the practice is cited as cultural or religious, it is often driven by inequitable gender norms such as an emphasis on protecting a girls’ (or her family’s) honour by controlling her sexuality.Working directly with girls to give them the opportunity to build skills and knowledge, understand and exercise their rights and develop support networks, is an important part of our efforts to end child marriage.Using an empowerment approach can lead to positive outcomes for girls and their families by supporting girls to become agents of change, helping them envisage what alternative roles could look like in their communities and ultimately helping them to forge their own pathway in life.Changing norms at scale is integral to the process of change and a growing number of organisations are using mass media campaigns and other innovative methods such as radio, TV and digital media to raise awareness of girls’ rights and the impact of child marriage.Messages that promote new norms, role models and positive deviants show positive signs of being an effective way to change attitudes and behaviours around the value of girls and women.
Keeping girls in school is an effective way to prevent girls marrying but it is not enough.Without change at this level, the day-to-day reality for girls all over the world will remain the same.At the grassroots, organisations are driving change by campaigning, holding community conversations and using a variety of creative techniques such as street theatre and art to reflect on the practice of child marriage and communicate its harmful impacts for girls and their communities.In communities where religious and traditional leaders play a prominent role in decision-making or influencing the prevailing norms, targeted interventions can support them to become positive advocates for change who fully understand the implications of child marriage for girls and their families.Community level change underpins all of our efforts in preventing child marriage and mitigating the harmful effects for married girls.