Community Empowerment and Child Marriage in Kilifi County, Kenya
Wanyeki, Joyreen Wambui
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Child marriage is a familiar phenomenon in many countries in Africa and Asia. It is a harmful traditional vice, a human rights violation which not only denies young girls a choice on whom to marry, but also exposes them to psychological, social, health and economic risks. Globally, girls from impoverished households are more likely victims of child marriages. Further combined with traditional practices and beliefs, poverty gives education preference to boys in situations of economic constraints. In Kenya, an estimated 23 per cent of girls are married off before 18 years. Kilifi County records the highest prevalence of child marriage with 47.4 per cent of girls married off before the age 18 years. Civil Society organizations in collaboration with the Government of Kenya are actively working towards reduced child marriages through awareness creation on the adverse consequences, presenting viable alternatives and advocating for implementation and enforcement of existing laws prohibiting it. However, several communities proceed with this practice. To better understand the social patterning of child marriage in Kenya, this research targeted Kilifi County. Guided by a model of child marriage, the study explored the effects of community empowerment on child marriage in Kilifi County, Kenya through four specific objectives that explored: the factors influencing child marriage; the effect of knowledge empowerment on child marriage; the effect of scholarship empowerment on child marriage; and the effect of economic empowerment on child marriage in Kilifi County, Kenya. The study adopted a cross-section research design and was informed by primary data obtained through in depth interviews. The study was carried out in Magarini Sub-county, Kilifi County leveraging multi stage sampling design. Research findings indicated that Knowledge empowerment, age at first got married, household composition, access to financial support services (Economic empowerment), access to school feeding programs, access to monetary support to facilitate education, accessibility to schools (Scholarship empowerment) and household incomes, significantly influence child marriage decisions in a household. Based on the findings the study recommendations are :more awareness creation initiatives around abuse reporting channels and legal laws around child marriage, accommodation of interested child brides into the education system either though adult literacy or vocational training programs, access to more favourable and context based financial support initiatives as well as community participation in development through enhanced citizen participation. The study identified gaps in the link between child marriage and devolution as well as climate change, and recommended for further research on the impact of devolution and climate change on child marriage.