Child marriage and early union in Southeast Asia: piloting a tool to quantify patterns and typologie

Updated: Sep 8

At the very end of last year we wrapped up our pathways to adolescent pregnancy study, our first collaboration with the Burnet Institute in Australia. That study explored the drivers and experiences of teenage girls and young women aged 16-20 in West Java and Central Sulawesi with pregnancy and marriage. The study was an exciting opportunity to explore a much more specific focus related to gender and health issues. The research method was also somewhat of a departure from our typical methods, using one-on-one ‘timeline interviews’ where participants were facilitated by researchers to create timeline drawings that outlined important or memorable moments in their lives leading up to them becoming pregnant and/or married. These timelines are similar to the ‘river of life’ visuals that we use during digital storytelling workshops and in some of our studies. Using timelines helped to keep the conversations with participants flexible and informal, and our researchers were able to draw upon their skills using informal conversations along with visuals that each has developed participating in many of our studies using immersions (the researcher team included Upik, Yarra, Alifah, and Thalia).


We hope to be able to share some of the insights from this study soon (the report is pending final client approval), but in the meantime we are excited to be starting a follow-up project with Burnet Institute. This new project will pilot test a survey tool that is being developed by Burnet to help quantify child marriage and early union typologies in Southeast Asia. The project is motivated by, and builds upon, some of the findings from the pathways study, such as insights that not all early marriages are non-consensual or formal, that adolescents are increasingly entering consensual marriages/unions with peers, and that a significant proportion of adolescent pregnancies occur before marriage, instigating formal marriages.



The new project will be implemented in two countries: Indonesia and Laos, with Empatika responsible for implementation in Indonesia. The pilot will be looking to refine the new survey tool and get feedback from adolescents and young women about the questions and the user-friendliness of the survey. While the survey tool will primarily be tested through an online platform that participants will access on their own, we are also planning to conduct some in-person surveys to ensure participation from young women in more rural areas. Fieldwork and testing will begin next month. We look forward to sharing more about the pathways study and this new project soon, and hope to be able to continue building partnerships like this!


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