What do chickens and goats have in common? Well, chickens and goats live on farms, and both can help end child marriage.
In Ethiopia and Tanzania, many families are given livestock in exchange for marrying off their young girls to adult men. However, if these girls already own animals, the trade becomes less vital for poor families and the marriages are less likely to occur.
Population Council, an organization that conducts research on health and development issues, spent three years in Ethiopia and Tanzania implementing methods to reduce child marriage rates. They discovered that educating the community, donating school supplies and providing girls with goats and chickens were the most effective ways to end early marriage.
Child marriage is most closely associated with poverty because struggling families are in desperate need of the dowry that adult husbands are willing to pay. In Tanzania and Ethiopia, nearly 40 percent of girls are married before they turn 18, and in just Ethiopia, nearly 20 percent of girls are married before age 15.
Population Council conducted research in Ethiopia that drastically reduced the possibility of illegal child marriage. They discovered that by giving girls between the ages of 15 and 17 two chickens every year, they were half as likely to be married by 18 than those who did not receive the animals. Additionally, 12 to 14-year-olds who were given school supplies were 94 percent less likely to be married as a child.
In Tanzania, the legal marriage age is 15, but by providing 15- to 17-year-old girls with goats, the odds of child marriage could be reduced by more than 60 percent.
Early marriage prevents girls from attending school and receiving an education. It heightens the risk of HIV/AIDS and limits a girl’s potential to get a job and earn a wage. Child marriage ultimately dehumanizes young girls by taking away their right to choose what they do with their lives.
Still, more than 14 million girls around the world are married each year before they turn 18. Educating developing communities on the harmfulness of child marriage and providing school supplies so girls can attend school are basic yet successful ways to reduce the rates at which young girls marry.
Goats and chickens, too, are playing a highly successful role in ending child marriage and breaking the cycle of global poverty. Hats off to Old MacDonald. E-I-E-I-O.
– Sarah Sheppard