Eliminating Child Marriages in Malawi and Zambia and Offering Scholarships to Child-marriage Survivors – Pilot Project

A child marriage survivor was previously married at age 15 and is now attending school in Zambia. Photo by UN Women


The project focuses on contributing to and accelerating the implementation of the Africa and global commitments to ending child marriage as a way of achieving the broader development goals of gender equality, freedom from poverty and a just world. The project helps to reposition young women and girls, who have experienced child marriage, to be at the centre of a social movement while leveraging the transformative power of traditional institutions. Through coordination and capacity-building of Government and civil society, the project strengthens accountability and efficiency in the efforts to eliminate child marriages. It also aims to provide scholarships and support to young women and girls to re-enrol in school after early marriage. 

Lessons learned


Regional policy development and implementation processes to support child-marriage survivors require long-term strategic engagement to make an impact at the national and community levels. To strengthen substantive results, future similar projects may need to be designed as multi-year initiatives, with significant resources dedicated to capacity-building of key partners and technical persons when introducing a new project/programme. 

Community stakeholders are the first responders to child-marriage crises. However, low literacy and high poverty rates have been challenges in the community members. Therefore, their capacity needs to be built continuously improving literacy/education status and livelihood conditions.

Way forward


The project has built capacity at the district and local levels by having a district cadre of trainers of trainers that will continue to train communities in gender equality, children’s rights, women empowerment, violence-against women and ending child marriage. 

Although activities by the governments in Zambia and Malawi to empower the families of the girls who have just started school to ensure the sustainability of the girls’ attendance, the income-generating projects and businesses are not yet viable or self-sustaining. The project serves as a vehicle to monitor progress in the implementation of continental initiatives in African Union member States. The results and learning from the national and community-level initiatives supported by the project will remain instructive for African Union policy-making and monitoring efforts. This linkage needs to be continued.

Results Highlight


  • Over 2,000 child-marriage survivors were re-enrolled in various schools with scholarships providing a second chance for education. Over 1,200 of those child-marriage survivors, who live in areas distant from their schools, received a bicycle for transportation to attend classes.
  • 52 community activities organized to raise awareness of social norms and behaviours towards the education of child-marriage survivors, which reached 1,285 traditional and religious leaders, chiefs, police, health workers and community members in Zambia and Malawi.
  • 395 community-level volunteers, including community members, youths and members of parent-teacher associations, were trained and mobilized to raise awareness and to discourage girls’ dropping out of school. A total of 62 young women in 10 communities were identified as mentors and community role models. 
  • Life skills clubs, also known as IBSA clubs, were set up in 14 schools in Malawi and in 35 schools in Zambia, benefiting 720 girls in Malawi and 1,223 girls in Zambia and facilitating essential services for child-marriage survivors. 

Key features


Young women and girls in Malawi and Zambia


Regional: African Union Commission (AUC); UN-Women Ethiopia. In Malawi: Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs; Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare; Malawi National Partnership to End Child Marriage; UN-Women Malawi; national women’s rights organizations; and community and religious leaders. In Zambia: Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Gender; Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development; UN-Women Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office; Campaign for Female Education; national women’s rights organizations; and community and religious leaders




April 2019–December 2020

Mostly contributing to

“That statement saying when you educate a girl you have educated the world is the reason I listed down the names of child marriage survivors in my chiefdom who had dropped out of school to be part of the IBSA programme. I told the teachers in my chiefdom that I needed the girls to continue schooling even if they have fallen pregnant or gotten married.”
Senior Chief Chinakila of the Lungu people, Mpulungu District, Northern Province, Zambia