Journal Article

Evaluation of a reproductive health program to support married adolescent girls in rural Ethiopia

Few reproductive health programs are targeted to married adolescent girls. This study measures changes associated with a program for married adolescent girls and a parallel husbands’ program, in rural Ethiopia. The married girls’ program provided information on communication, self-esteem, reproductive health and gender through girls’ groups. The husbands’ program focused on non-violence, support to families, and reproductive health. Population-based surveys were undertaken among married girls, at midterm and end line. Outcomes of interest were husbands’ assistance with domestic work, accompaniment to the clinic, family planning use, voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), and domestic violence. Overall, 1,010 married girls were interviewed. Participation in the girls’ groups was associated with improvements in help with domestic work, accompaniment to the clinic, family planning and VCT. Further improvements were recorded when both partners participated. For example, participating girls were nearly 8 times more likely to receive VCT (OR 7.7) than nonparticipants, and more than 18 times more likely if both partners participated (OR 18.3). While these results are promising, there were indications of selectivity bias that could have contributed to the positive results. Programs engaging both wives and husbands can result in incremental improvements to the health and well-being of girls married early.