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Grounded in their lives: Comprehensive stakeholders engagement to change child marriage policy and programming for girls in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region

Building on a 4 year long study undertaken by Dr Aisha Hutchinson, in partnership with Terre des hommes (Tdh) in Jordan and Lebanon, the ultimate goal of this project is to ensure child marriage policy and programming in the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA) is comprehensively and explicitly grounded in the lived experience of adolescent girls, recognising the social process of marriage through which the drivers of child marriage are filtered and the impact of forced migration.

Child marriage is a strategic priority for protection actors in MENA and ending child marriage is one of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (goal 5.3). The activities undertaken as part of the project aim to amplify holistic, joined up and comprehensive child marriage policy and programming through evidenced-based policy briefs, case management guidance and other tools using a gender justice and access to justice lens. The original research undertaken has already changed how Tdh approach child marriage programming (see recently published ‘Child Marriage Model of Action for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’), and the project extends the research impact to influence child marriage policy and programming enacted by key UN, governmental and non-governmental actors in the MENA region.

The original research carried out by Dr Aisha Hutchinson (see all research outputs on Terre des hommes' website) found that child marriage programming for Syrian refugees is often hidden, fragmented and ambiguous, obstructed by a long list of theoretical, ethical and practical challenges.

While there have been a number of research studies carried out recently on child marriage in the Middle East, this is the only research to illuminate, in detail, the manifestation of child marriage within the broader social process of marriage, the impact of displacement, the ambivalent attitudes held, the role and responsibilities of faith-based actors and a comprehensive mapping of the response to child marriage across the two countries. The research findings suggest significant changes are required to the current programmatic and policy response to child marriage.


The goal of this project is to change child marriage policy and programming by governmental, non-governmental and UN agencies in response to high rates of child marriage across many refugee affected communities in the region, to ensure it is comprehensively and explicitly grounded in the lived experience of adolescent girls that was illuminated through the research.


The project involved the following pathways to impact activities:

1. A set of three interactive online workshops (July – September 2020) using an online workspace, MURAL, were held with lead practitioners at Tdh Jordan and Tdh Lebanon to ensure that both country teams were fully briefed on the research findings and the implications of these findings for the organisation and for their programmes of work.

We also sought feedback about key implications of the research for policy and practice, and suggestions for specific tools or outputs from the research that could be used to enhance the way child marriage is addressed in the region.

2. A consultation with key regional actors including Girls Not Brides, Ministry of Social Affairs MoSA Lebanon, ABAAD – Resource Center for Gender Equality, National CSO Lebanon, National Council for Family Affairs, NCFA Jordan, Arab Women’s Legal Network, MENA and UNICEF, RAF MENA Co-chair.

The aims of the consultation were to:

  • Disseminate the main findings and recommendations from the research to key stakeholders who are in positions of influence over the development of child marriage policies and programming in Tdh and others across MENA.
  • Discuss implications of the main research findings and recommendations from the research with key stakeholders, and discuss ways they could take the research into account in their own policy and programming.
  • Identify a set of tools or other outputs which would support evidenced-based changes to child marriage policy and programming based on our research.
  • Set up a long term dialogue to develop and monitor the impact of the research findings on child marriage policy and practice.

3. A set of four outputs (see Outputs tab below) were identified, following the workshops and consultation process; they were developed by consultant Julie Rialet:

  • A child-friendly and gender-responsive version of the key findings of the research in the form of a poster to be hosted in community spaces across Jordan and Lebanon. The poster was based on feedback from children pertaining the messaging drawing from key findings from the research. A professional designer was used to put the poster together.
  • Two policy briefs were developed in consultation with the Ministry of Social Affairs, MoSA Lebanon and the National Council for Family Affairs, NCFA Jordan on Child Marriage and Education, and Child Marriage and Livelihoods.
  • A series of four case studies were produced based on the narrative interviews completed as part of the original research, telling the stories of girls affected by child marriage. This was accompanied by an audiovisual introduction, and then a written case study. These have been circulated on social media by Tdh.
  • Operational guidance on child marriage for case management in consultation with case management leads in Tdh. This guidance has also been widely circulated across Jordan.

4. A webinar entitled ‘Accelerating the End of Child Marriage in the MENA Region. From Evidence-based Research to Policy and Programme Building: Showcasing Learning and Results was hosted by Childhub to export the knowledge of the project to different Tdh staff and network of practitioners in the hub that are working on other regions.

Our Partners

Project status: Completed

Principal Investigator



Funding Body: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Amount: £13,580

Period: July 2020 - November 2021