Ending Child Marriage and Girl's Empowerment Program, Global Overview, 2012
Education, specifically in the form of formal, state-provision, has been noted as being "…strongly associated with delayed marriage” (ICRW, 2011). Formal education activities can protect girls in a number of ways, for example by creating safe spaces, increased communication and exchange with peer groups, the easy identification of girls as adolescents when in a school setting, and finally, increasing the girls' opportunity to "…better communicate and negotiate their interests" (ICRW, 2011). As a result of weak enrollment rates, as well as the weak educational capacity of government school systems to provide an effective learning environment for all students, girls face continuing marginalization in many areas, and are at a heightened risk for abuse and marriage with the failure of formalized education services.
The first area of programmes which undermine the systemic risk factors of weak state provision of services and blockages to information for girls are those working on increasing enrollment through economic empowerment. Conditional cash transfers (CCT's) have been shown to be an extremely effective tool for increasing school enrollment rates. CCT's work to undermine low school enrollment rates by providing families with a conditional economic incentive to send their children (primarily girls) to school; payment are made only upon mandated attendance goals being met. The Female Secondary School Stipend Programme in Bangladesh, started in 1982, has scaled up to almost 2.3 million girls according to the most recent estimates (Mahmud, 2003), and has helped to almost double secondary school enrollment rates for females over a 7 year testing period (Mahmud, 2003). A more recent CCT programme targeting girls is the Malawi Zomba Cash Transfer Programme, which provides for school fees and cash transfers to girls' families, and has shown to, "...(lead) to significant declines in early marriage, teenage pregnancy, and self-reported sexual activity among programme beneficiaries after just one year of programme implementation" (Baird, 2010).
Educational contextual conditions in both nations, including a lack of physical infrastructure, low quality of service provision, high dropout rates for females, high female pregnancy rates, high rates of child marriage, low educational attainment, and relatively expensive secondary-level schooling have placed disproportionately negative pressures of females. In Bangladesh, years of results from the FSSSP have shown strongly positive increases in girls' enrollment, increased employment opportunities, and in delaying marriage (Mahmud, 2003). Zomba has shown strong results: through the funding of both school fees and an additional stipend of approximately $10/month, 1230 girls selected for the programme were shown to be, "…3-4 times more likely to be in school…" (Baird, 2010) than control groups. Up to 40% decreases were seen in marriage rates for girls in the programme who had initially dropped out (Baird, 2010). Both programmes demand strict attendance of at least 75% for the girls, as well as commitments to stay unmarried.
The government of Bangladesh has exercised strong control and integration of the programme since its inception and subsequent scaling, and the programme represents 17% of the government's annual school budget; Bangladesh as well as multi-lateral donors giving budgetary support are the primary funders of the programme, which has been thus strongly integrated into government policy at the national level. Malawi's CCT programme is still largely funded by multi-lateral donors such as the World Bank, and with the national government's recent fiscal crisis, government ownership of the programme in the near future remains questionable (BBC News, 2011).
In Kenya, the School Based HIV/AIDS Programme (2003-2006), through subsidizing the cost of girls' uniforms (approximately $6 per uniform per girl) was shown to have, "…significantly reduced pregnancy rates among girls by 17% in the first three years" (Duflo 2011). The intervention targeted primary school girls in a country where school fees have been eliminated, but expenses such as uniforms create the biggest barrier to girls’ enrollment. 5000 girls were targeted, given free uniforms, and given an additional uniform approximately 6 months later, if still enrolled (Duflo, 2011). Girls targeted were shown to be 17% less likely to be pregnant, and 20% "…less likely to be married" (Duflo, 2011). Again, this programme was largely funded by external donors, and the government of Kenya has not shown inclination thus far in integrating this programme into national policy, despite its strong results.
The second area of programmes that undermine the systemic risk factors for child marriage of weak state provision and blockages to information for girls are those which are working to increase the quality of educational outputs in government primary and secondary schools. Two such programmes, which have shown great success in this area, are Pratham's Read India and Save the Children's Literacy Boost.
Enrollment is only the first step in providing girls with safe spaces, information, and empowerment; the quality of service delivery, of having trained teachers teaching a relevant, understandable curriculum with appropriate educational materials is a critical second step in making sure the girls are actually learning once they step foot in the classroom. Read India, which by 2009 was deployed in 19 states and reached 33 million children (JPAL, "Remedial Education"), works to complement the formal educational system through teacher training, supplementary learning materials, community volunteer mobilization, clear learning goals, more targeted learning activities, and clear assessments (Banerji and Walton, 2011). Public education in India has been historically beset with problems, including low enrollment rates and exceedingly disappointing learning outcomes for students, particularly females. With Read India, "Significant" improvements were seen from a low baseline in student learning, "…with minimal resources" (Banerji and Walton, 2011). The strategies employed by Read India need to be integrated more fully into governmental policy for their future institutionalization, but the programme's mass scale and audience has attracted huge amounts of interest throughout India.
Literacy Boost has been implemented in Malawi, Nepal, Pakistan, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Mozambique, Bangladesh, Mali, Haiti, Uganda, and the Phillipines (Gavin, 2011). While still a new programme, assessments conducted in Malawi and Mozambique have shown promising results in the areas of phonetics and reading/math skills after just two years of implementation (Trudell and Dowd, 2012). In just one area of the programme, which increases access to local language materials and promotes out of classroom reading, improvements in vocabulary of 17% were seen in just the first year of intervention. (Trudell and Dowd, 2012). The programme works with overstretched government primary schools in teacher training, local language library and teaching materials, community mobilization, assessments (Trudell and Dowd, 2012). The programme also specifically targets marginalized youth and females in the early grades to improve learning outcomes, and has shown impressive positive impacts on enrollment rates (Trudell and Dow, 2012). While funded by an outside NGO (Save the Children) and still at its early stages, the strong results seen in difficult, overcrowded government schools points to possibilities for adoption into broader governmental educational strategy (while keeping in mind fiscal restraints).