Skip to main content

Joint UNFPA-UNICEF report highlights developments in ending child marriage

+ 1 more
Publication date
View original

Accelerating and Amplifying Change

2017 Annual Report for the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage


Trends in child marriage

Over the past decade, child marriage has continued to decline.
Globally, the proportion of young women who were married as children decreased by 15 per cent, from 1 in 4 to about 1 in 5.

It is now estimated that a total of 650 million girls and women alive today were married as children. However, the current rate of decline in child marriage is not sufficient to meet the SDG target of ending child marriage by 2030; to meet this target, progress would need to be 12 times faster than the rate observed over the past decade. The reduction in child marriage has been uneven.

While South Asia has led the way on reducing child marriage, the global burden is shifting to sub-Saharan Africa, where rates of progress need to be accelerated dramatically to reduce the prevalence and offset population growth.

Global programme approach

To achieve lasting change at significant scale, the Global Programme continued to build government ownership and commitment towards ending child marriage. The Global Programme promoted multisectoral approaches, with five out of 12 countries increasing the number of geographic areas where United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are working together. All countries diversified their efforts to leverage capacities and resources of other sectors, institutions, platforms and systems. The Global Programme currently works with 276 implementing partners and 92 other partners.

Headline results

Overall, the programme is on track and most output targets were achieved or exceeded.

EMPOWERMENT OF ADOLESCENT GIRLS: Country offices (COs) have improved the designing and planning of life skills interventions. The Indicator Index and Programme Guidance are contributing to a better formulation of life skills interventions.

Countries are increasingly leveraging opportunities for life skills interventions in the school system. Countries are tracking knowledge, skills and attitudes toward agency and decisionmaking outcomes.

COMMUNITY DIALOGUE AND MOBILIZATION FOR SOCIAL AND BEHAVIOUR CHANGE: COs have been making better distinctions between mass media, campaign activities and community dialogue. Media activities continue to be a key strategy for behaviour change communication, with improvements in tracking coverage and monitoring audience response. At least seven countries are gathering data on gender-equitable attitudes and on attitudes of families to child marriage such as gender roles, gender-based violence (GBV), empowerment and mobility.

SYSTEMS STRENGTHENING: COs have improved their efforts to formulate systems strengthening activities in health, education and child protection sectors through direct support or through complementary linkages with programmes supported by other funds. Tracking of complementary programmes and resources has improved since 2016.

GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP AND INVESTMENTS: Nine governments have developed child marriage national action plans (NAPs), while five countries have costed and budgeted NAPs. The Global Programme Support Unit (GPSU) is providing guidance and support on assessing the impact of NAPs in addition to tracking budgeting and allocation processes for ending child marriage. Regional offices (ROs) are supporting country programmes in the analysis of public budget allocations and expenditures for country strategies to ensure government accountability and to avoid duplication in the development methodologies to analyse public finances.

EVIDENCE GENERATION TO INFORM PROGRAMMING: COs and ROs completed 42 studies, ranging from hotspot analysis, baseline and situation analysis to mappings of activities and compilation of lessons learned. Countries are carrying out more detailed studies on the drivers of child marriage in specific areas and are mapping effective platforms and large-scale programmes for the prevention of child marriage to inform programming. At the global level, notable initiatives included the completion of the evaluability assessment, the strengthening of monitoring capacities through the recruitment of a full-time monitoring and evaluation (M&E) specialist, and the organization of the global child marriage meeting with an emphasis on learning and exchange of knowledge. The UNICEF Data & Analytics Section also supported tailored analysis for countries and regions on levels, trends and projections of child marriage prevalence. These have been produced to provide detailed situation analyses, highlight progress and remaining areas of need, and assist countries in target-setting.

Next steps

As the Global Programme continues into 2018, UNFPA and UNICEF are expanding and improving programmes to reach more girls, strengthen systems, increase country ownership, better monitor and evaluate progress, and work more effectively with partners.

PROGRAMME PLANS: The Global Programme will further emphasize prioritizing multisectoral initiatives that are the most catalytic. The Global Programme will continue to: provide technical assistance for the efficient delivery of scalable life skills packages; develop or adapt tools to harmonize the tracking of changes in attitudes and behaviours; and facilitate the learning and sharing of Communication for Development (C4D) tools. To improve programme outcomes, the Global Programme will develop a set of good practices for systems strengthening that can be supported through partnerships or through nonGlobal Programme funding. The Global Programme will use the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Accountability Framework as an entry point to augment support in this area.

LEVERAGING OF RESOURCES: Since Global Programme funding for the first phase is declining, COs are broadening partnerships and increasing efforts to leverage resources and capacities of other units and agencies. In order to fill the shortfall in funding, the Global Programme is implementing its Resource Mobilization Strategy. Improvements in the programme’s governance will result in better planning, reporting, finances, resource mobilization and donor environment. Continuity of programme results and progress in scalable models is dependent on continued funding.

GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP: Countries are evolving from developing National Action Plans to costing, budget allocations and implementation. In-depth tracking of budget allocation processes and outcomes will follow. By 2018–2019, 11 countries are expected to have launched their National Action Plans, and eight countries to cost and budget these plans.

EVIDENCE AND KNOWLEDGE: Country programmes will make better use of available research and implementation knowledge to develop evidence-based strategies that are designed for achieving results at scale. ROs and headquarters (HQ) will invest more in documenting and sharing evidence, good practices and lessons learned, which includes opportunities for cross-country and cross-regional learning, capitalizing on the differences and opportunities across the 12 countries involved in the Global Programme. The GPSU will continue to provide guidance and support on assessing the quality of evidence.

PLANNING, MONITORING AND EVALUATION: In line with the recommendations of the evaluability assessment, the Global Programme will: strengthen the programme design and refine the Global Theory of Change (ToC) and results framework; ensure that appropriate M&E systems are in place to measure and report on the revised Global Results Framework (GRF); revise the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage (GPECM) reporting approach, tools and guidance; and undertake an evaluation. Further investments will be made to: improve the measurement of social and gender norms; establish minimum standards for measuring life skills outcomes; and track improvements in service quality and the utilisation of services. The Programme will also support the analysis of district-level costing and resource allocation. Countrylevel M&E systems will be strengthened to generate data and analysis for scalable interventions and standards. A total of 71 studies are planned in 2018–2019 (including studies carried over from 2017). Driver studies will focus more on specific local contexts, humanitarian situations and on themes such as school drop-out and consensual child marriage.