3 Root Causes of FGM and Child Marriage

FGM and child marriage are forms of gender-based violence that have their roots in extreme poverty, cultural norms, and lack of education.


Girl smiling in traditional jewelry, along with a quote from the Kenya Big Dream Project Baseline Study from July 2020: "The practice of female genital cutting has deep cultural roots and is worsened by the high poverty and illiteracy levels in the community."

Extreme Poverty

 

Of the three root causes, extreme poverty is the most immediate. In the areas where we work, female genital mutilation is considered a prerequisite for marriage, and girls are married off in exchange for a bride price, which families often need in order to survive. Plus, with the combined impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change, poverty levels have soared in recent years, making the idea marrying off daughters earlier a necessity.

But by implementing programs like savings groups and helping communities come up with innovations to add value to the goods that they produce, like more efficient irrigation systems, or installing chicken waterers to allow them to produce more eggs, families can raise themselves out of poverty, and eliminate the need for families to cut and marry off their girls.


Cultural Norms

 

The second main cause of FGM and child marriage is cultural norms. FGM and child marriage are traditions in some communities to the point of universality, making it difficult to convince communities that these practices are harmful to their girls.

It is only by working with communities over time to listen to the issues they are having in their communities, building trust, that you can then begin to discuss issues that have deep cultural roots like FGM or child marriage. By collaborating with community leaders and elders to create alternative rites of passage and leading sessions on child protection, we can address this root cause.


Lack of Education

 

Education makes all the difference. Girls with more formal education are less likely to become child brides or undergo FGM.

By giving girls access to formal education, they can have the skills and opportunities to decide their own futures. Through initiatives like providing school fees, HerLab, and more, girls and their communities see the value in education and its ability to transform their lives.