Improving nutrition, health and livelihoods through enhanced homestead food production: A strategy to reduce child marriage in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has the world’s highest rate of child marriage among girls under the age of 15. Two-thirds of Bangladeshi girls are married before they turn 18, nearly half become pregnant before 19, and the rates of stunting and underweight are 26% and 36%, respectively. Poverty is the most commonly cited reason for driving families towards child marriage, but the drivers of early marriage are diverse.
Previous research has shown that homestead food production is an effective tool to diversify diets, improve nutrition, and generate income in a range of geographical areas and livelihood conditions. This project will test the hypothesis that by enhancing food production and generating income, young girls in Bangladesh will experience lower rates of marriage and pregnancy, and improved food security, dietary diversity, nutritional status and better livelihood conditions overall as compared to a control group. The project aims to implement a gender-transformative enhanced homestead food production and income generation program to document its efficacy in preventing child marriage, and in turn, adolescent pregnancy-induced malnutrition, among girls aged 13-15 years in southern Bangladesh’s Khulna division, a high-risk area for child marriage.
The project will conduct a cluster-randomized controlled trial in which 1,200 girls in afterschool youth clubs participate in a 24-month program on women’s empowerment through hands-on workshops. Participants will be trained in sexual and reproductive health, water, sanitation, and hygiene. Those in the enhanced homestead food production group will also be trained in vegetable, poultry, and small livestock production to help improve nutrient intake and provide a source of income for the families of adolescent girls.
The project will also address the traditional beliefs and social norms associated with the high prevalence of child marriage in Bangladesh by using a gender-transformative approach that has reported positive effects on women’s decision-making, mobility, and time use.