Reducing Child Marriage: Adapting Lessons from Malawi to Nepal


Although Nepal and Malawi are continents apart, they both have high rates of child marriage. According to Girls Not Brides, a global network committed to ending child marriage, Malawi has the 11th highest rate of child marriage in the world, followed closely by Nepal in 16th place. In both countries, child marriage is illegal; however, it is still a common practice, with 33% of girls in Nepal and 42% of girls in Malawi marrying before the age of 18. To reduce child, early, and forced marriage, both countries aimed to strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of government and local bodies in social and behavior change with support from Breakthrough ACTION.

Given similar needs in both countries, Breakthrough ACTION applied lessons learned from Malawi to activities in Nepal, specifically using local media to promote new norms surrounding the age of marriage and encouraging communities to act on these messages.

In Malawi, Breakthrough ACTION produced and aired radio programs and spots on local stations to promote children’s rights, responsible parenthood, and girls’ empowerment. The project also produced six radio public service announcements, which reached over 106,000 people ages 15 and older. The spots highlighted the effects of child marriage, men’s and chiefs’ roles in reducing child marriage, and children’s right to education. Over 300 child marriages were prevented as a result of the intervention.

This success inspired Breakthrough ACTION work in Nepal. Niraj Dahal, Knowledge Management and Outreach Communication Specialist, noted:

“We wanted to learn how Malawi engaged local media to bring awareness at the grassroots level. This knowledge will be helpful for us [Nepal] as local media engagement can play an important role in motivating people.”

The project plans to host talk shows and interviews and publish short social media videos in Nepal. A video competition and a radio program called “Warrior” are also in the works to help recognize local change makers for their contributions to reducing child marriage. Establishing human connections is essential to Breakthrough ACTION’s work. Whether it is within small communities in Malawi and Nepal or across an ocean, the power of relationships and sharing cannot be underestimated.

Written by: Sharmin Sultana, Knowledge Management Program Specialist, Breakthrough ACTION