Ending Child Marriage: Using data to protect the young
NAIROBI, Kenya—Efforts to end child marriage in Africa are the focus of this year’s observance of the Day of the African Child, on June 16.
In Kenya, despite legislation prohibiting marriage before the age of 18, the practice under “customary” law – marriages according to customs of communities of one or both parties – and Islamic law sets no minimum age. Many young girls, especially in rural areas, are given in marriage by their parents in exchange for livestock or goods or because they are seen as an economic burden. A recent study showed 43 percent of girls were married before age 18 and just under 12 percent of boys.1
As the Government of Kenya seeks to combat these early marriages, it needs reliable data to inform policies and pinpoint districts where more resources are needed for programs to safeguard children from early marriage – programs such as improved access to education, health information, and child protection services.
MEASURE Evaluation PIMA (MEval-PIMA) is currently working to address this data challenge in the Kenyan child rights and welfare sector, working with the country’s Department of Children Services (DCS). Kenya’s child protection system promotes the well-being of children through the prevention of violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect, and by ensuring prompt and coordinated action in response to such events. Data necessary for the Child Protection Information Management System (CPMIS) helps guide national-level allocation of resources, as well as the planning and targeting of education and health interventions, among others.
But challenges remain, including:
- A non-functioning digital database;
- Absence of a system that integrates all child protection activities;
- Inferior data quality, data processing, and analysis for decision making;
- Limited national coverage to enable access for all stakeholders.
MEval-PIMA is focusing on the CPIMS, seeking to improve its functionality while building the capacity of stakeholders to use the system to monitor their programs and evaluate their resulting data for improved programmatic and policy decisions. The project intends to roll out the CPIMS system to 10 counties, which requires systems and stakeholder assessments, system upgrades, user training, and strengthening of stakeholder coordination forums to share data and build on best practices and practical experience.
Instituting a comprehensive, functional child protection system in Kenya that captures child marriage data and, especially, identifies geographic hotspots where it is occurring, will provide accurate, valid information for meaningful action.
The Day of the African Child commemorates protests made by thousands of black South African school children on the streets of Soweto nearly 40 years ago. Kenya is honoring those children this year in its efforts to establish a coordinated data system to help reduce the incidence of child marriage in Kenya and ultimately protect its children, especially its young girls.
For more information visit http://www.cpc.unc.edu/measure/pima/child-health-and-safety.
1. Plan International. Because I am a Girl – Kenya country report 2012: Study of the factors influencing girls’ access, retention and completion of primary and secondary school education. Nairobi, Kenya: Plan International, 2012.