The Council is evaluating approaches to prevent child marriage and improve life opportunities for girls in rural Bangladesh.
Despite significant progress in many gender and reproductive health indicators, two out of three girls in Bangladesh are married before the legal age of 18, according to Demographic and Health Surveys. Most become mothers while they themselves are still children. Early marriage forces girls into sexual relationships for which they are not physically or emotionally ready. It can cause them to drop out of school and limits opportunities for community participation, including employment. Even as adults, women who married early are often at a disadvantage resulting from social isolation, poverty, and poor education.
BALIKA seeks to delay marriage by giving girls skills so that they will be considered assets rather than liabilities by their families and their communities. It tests different approaches to building girls’ resources and will help to determine which interventions are most effective and why.
BALIKA is a four-arm randomized trial involving 9,000 girls aged 12–18 at 72 village centers (located in primary schools) within three districts of Bangladesh. Participants in study Arms 1–3 meet regularly with mentors and peers in safe, girl-only locations to receive basic life skills training.
- Girls in Arm 1 will receive tutoring in mathematics and English (in-school girls) and computing or financial skill training (out-of-school girls).
- Girls in Arm 2 will receive livelihoods training in computers, mobile phone repair, photography, or conducting financial transactions via mobile phone.
- Girls in Arm 3 will receive life skills training, including information about gender rights and negotiation, critical thinking, and decisionmaking skills.
- Girls in Arm 4 will be a control group with no services. A control arm is necessary because we cannot be sure that any of the three experimental arms of the study will offer girls any benefit compared to receiving no services.
To measure the impact of each package in relation to the others and to the control group, a baseline survey was conducted before the program was implemented, and an endline survey will be conducted after the program has been in place for 18 months.
BALIKA is expected to report results in 2016. The primary outcome to be measured is the number of girls who marry before age 18. The Council anticipates that the broad benefits of the services offered by the program will also extend beyond the girls directly participating, to reach those who are a few years older or younger.