GIF supports innovation to prevent early female marriage in Bangladesh.

By GIF Communications

Apr 14, 2023

GIF is pleased to announce we have awarded a $805K grant to the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) and the University of Kent to deliver and evaluate a new programme designed to reduce child marriage amongst girls aged 12 to 17 years.

BLAST, which is the largest non-governmental legal services organisation in Bangladesh, aims to provide communities with tools to stop early marriage across the full continuum, from early intervention to legal response.

Its innovation, SafePlus, empowers youth groups by providing leadership, negotiation and legal training, supervised and delivered by experienced paralegals. The groups are mentored and equipped to deliver activities and legal support within their communities.

Child marriage is a violation of human rights which adversely affects the education, health and well-being of girls and perpetuates cycles of poverty. The current law in Bangladesh that addresses child marriage is the 2017 Child Marriage Restraint Act (CMRA) which sets the minimum age of marriage for a male as 21 years and for a female as 18 years. CMRA criminalises contracting, allowing, or solemnising of a child marriage. Furthermore, in 2018, the Child Marriage Restraint Rules provided details of the formation and responsibilities of Child Marriage Prevention Committees, along with other functional details. However, as both the Act and the Rules are relatively new, there remains a societal need to increase understanding and act on the new legal regime set up for restraining child marriages.

Compared to existing programmes in the adolescent space, BLAST’s unique innovation lies in providing legal training and building paralegal capabilities through grassroots youth network development. Its long-term vision is to establish a high impact, cost-effective and scalable model that allows for CMRA to be leveraged and implemented to prevent early marriage. BLAST will build on existing partnerships to scale up through augmenting existing youth programming. The innovation aims to reach 50 communities across four districts (some 30,000 households) over the grant period.

Alongside delivering its model, BLAST will partner with The University of Kent on conducting a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) to evaluate the programme’s impact and cost-effectiveness. This will measure outcomes such as delays in marriage and child births, reduction in school dropouts and improvements in women and girls’ agency. The RCT will cover 100 urban neighbourhoods and 30,000 households.

GIF’s grant is structured to incentivise BLAST to deliver key impact outcomes. The deal will also generate high quality evidence on what works to reduce child marriage.