“Trading daughters for livestock”: An ethnographic study of facilitators of child marriage in Lira district, Northern Uganda

Stella Neema, Christine Muhumuza, Rita Nakigudde, Cecilie S Uldbjerg, Florence M Tagoola, Edson Muhwezi


Child marriage remains a significant challenge in Uganda despite national policies, legislation and programs for improved rights of girls. This ethnographic study aimed to explore underlying drivers of child marriage in Lira district, Northern Uganda. We applied a triangulation of qualitative methods; in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, key informant interviews and observations. Data were analysed using qualitative thematic content analysis. Our study findings showed that child marriage is still prevalent in the study area and the practice was also carried out at designated markets, at which girls were traded in exchange of livestock. The main drivers of child marriage were identified as poverty and survival strategies; socio-cultural beliefs and norms; and school dropouts. Determined efforts are needed to address the socio-cultural drivers of child marriage, keep girls in school, address poverty through targeting the family and individual level with appropriate incentives to address the economic needs of girls and families to delay marriage, enforce laws prohibiting the practice of child marriage, equip teenagers with accurate information on SRHR and ensure that parents support their daughters to be educated and responsible adults. (Afr J Reprod Health 2021; 25[3]: 83-93).

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