Girls who get married before turning 18 are more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed, and experience violence and harassment, study says.
The findings of the study “Measuring Empowerment among Adolescent Girls in the Context of Intervention” was revealed in a webinar organised by the Population Council, said a statement on Saturday.
Dr Ubaidur Rob, country director of Population Council, chaired the webinar moderated by Sigma Ainul, senior program officer of Population Council.
The study was based on adolescent empowerment derived from the data of BALIKA, a four-arm randomized control trial design that evaluated different approaches of adolescents' skills development.
It assessed the levels of empowerment among adolescent girls in rural Bangladesh who were part of the BALIKA project.
A delayed marriage greatly improves a girl’s chances for a healthy, happy, and productive life which affects the girl’s children, family, and community while the country experiences better health, economic and social outcomes, according to the statement.
Approximately 60% of the girls are married early, which remained at the same level over the past ten years in the country, despite many positive changes experienced by women, including increased access to schooling and workforce participation, improved life expectancy, and declining fertility.
The Population Council research team led by Dr Sajeda Amin, principal investigator of the BALIKA project shared the findings of the study at the webinar.
The study collected extensive data on potential measures of voice, choice, and agency before and after the intervention from a representative sample of adolescents living in communities randomly allocated to three intervention arms and a control.
Findings show that the least empowered class had the highest restrictions on mobility, few supportive networks, and the least voice and ability to negotiate with parents/family on decisions affecting them.
The second group of mobile, socially active classes were more able to go places (library, playground, market, and friends’ homes) and had a network of friends and mentors. Although they reported lower access to sources of information, they were the most likely to have recently watched television.
The socially progressive class have more egalitarian views on gender roles within the household and are less accepting of physical violence than girls in the least empowered or the mobile, socially active classes.
The most empowered class had the most egalitarian views on gender norms and were the most condemning of violence.
They were the most likely to have access to the bank, market, and library, and knew how to use computers. Members of this group were found to be mostly free from domination by the family, according to the study.
The panellists Lopita Huq, BRAC; Mridul Chowdhury, mPower; Kaniz Gofrani Qureishy, PSTC shared their insights on the study findings and adolescents' empowerment.
The discussants argued that the gender-rights awareness arm was the most successful in influencing early adolescent girls across multiple dimensions of empowerment.
They emphasized on finding if the participation in Gender-Rights Awareness Arm was similarly predictive of girls’ membership in the most empowered class.
According to them, further research is needed on the relationship between membership in these latent classes of empowerment and more distal outcomes, including school completion, employment, and experience of violence, and sexual and reproductive health outcomes.