ECMP’s vision is: That young people, families, communities, religious leaders and governments are empowered to end child marriage. Empowerment is the goal that we have for our programme and the stakeholders with whom we work. But what is empowerment in the context of ending child marriage? How can we recognise it? Evaluate it? As we strive to teach people skills and knowledge that motivate them…we are witnessing communities defining child marriage as an important and concerning issue.
ECMP’s approach is to empower all community stakeholders to become partners and change agents in addressing the complex issues around child marriage. Our holistic approach is a multi-dimensional social process that helps people to focus on those at highest risk from child marriage…the adolescent girls, who are at the centre as the ones most at risk from child marriage. Our ECMP team and stakeholders are learning to view empowerment as much more than a popular buzz word. We are experiencing and learning that understanding empowerment is a critical issue for us as we move forward in executing ECMP’s programme strategy with the aim of up scaling a sustainable end-child marriage programme nationwide.
Communities are realising that empowering girls is one of the most effective ways to improve the prosperity of societies. ECMP is fostering community conversations and initiating other pioneering efforts that over time, communities begin to question child marriage and collectively decide to end the practice. ECMP plays a supportive role with the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA) at all levels engaging with communities to collaborate and work together toward creative and realistic solutions to end child marriage. Participatory training with the various stakeholders builds knowledge, mutual respect and a collective understanding of an empowerment process that is meant to bring about behavioural change in communities and families in favour of abandoning child marriage. Economic incentives provide school materials to help keep girls in school and help as well to enable out of school girls to re-enrol. Additionally, a revolving fund supports girls’ caregivers with training for income generating activities and with loans through membership of local Savings and Credit Cooperatives.
ECMP has recently developed woreda community forums for ending child marriage, bringing together representatives from all groups trained by ECMP at kebele and woreda level to share best practices and discuss challenges. We have learned that many individuals taking part in the campaign to end child marriage are experiencing positive change, as community empowerment becomes a meaningful and proven concept to stem child marriages. Some kebele managers have reported that they are no longer receiving indications or reports on child marriage and they believe that the practice has most likely ceased in their community. On the other hand...community conversations in some kebeles stopped as soon as ECMP activities stopped thus challenging us to question why this has happened and to prioritise alternative community initiatives that foster empowerment and can be sustainable in future programme implementation.
From adolescent girls and boys, parents, government leaders and employees, community members and leaders, school directors and teachers to religious leaders…everyone in the community must come to a deep and personal understanding of the causes and consequences of child marriage and how to end it. ECMP is challenged to capture and document the emerging knowledge and learning from the journey communities are making in addressing child marriage. And the empowerment process is leading the way.