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928 resources(s)

Gender Hub sources and selects hundreds of resources across a range of gender themes to help you get in the know. Our editorial team carefully summarises them so that we present you the latest evidence in a timely way.

Evaluating religious influences on the utilization of maternal health services among Muslim and Christian women in North-Central Nigeria

Publisher: BioMed Research International 2016
Author: M. Al-Mujtaba

While the level of uptake of antenatal services in Nigeria is low everywhere, indicators suggest that levels in the Christian-dominated South are higher than in the Muslim-dominated North. This study, published in the journal BioMed Research International, evaluated the effect of religious influences on the utilisation of general and HIV-related maternal health services among women in rural and peri-urban North-Central Nigeria. The study targeted participants that were HIV-positive, pregnant, or of reproductive age in the Federal Capital Territory and Nasarawa, and collected data via focus group discussions. Themes explored were the utilisation of facility-based services, gender preferences with regard to healthcare provider, and the acceptance of the Mentor Mother scheme, consisting of trained, HIV-positive counsellors as a Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) service. Thematic and content approaches were then applied to manual data analysis.

Of the 68 women were recruited for the study, 72% were Christian and 28% Muslim. The research identified no significant religious influences among barriers to maternal service uptake expressed by participants. Limitations were mainly being a long distance from a clinic, and socio-economic dependence on male partners, rather than religious restrictions. All participants stated a preference for facility-based services, while neither Muslim nor Christian women had provider gender preferences; competence and positive attitude were considered more important. All the women found Mentor Mothers highly acceptable as a PMTCT service. Given the findings, it is suggested that nterventions aimed at increasing antenatal care and PMTCT uptake should therefore concentrate on: targeting male partner buy-in and support; healthcare provider training to improve attitudes; and Mentor Mother program strengthening and impact assessment….

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Plan of action for religious leaders from Africa to prevent incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity crimes

Publisher: United Nations [UN] Peacekeeping Operations 2015

The protection of populations and prevention of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, while primarily the responsibility of nation states, is a multi-layered and complex task requiring the contribution of a multitude of societal actors. Among them, religious leaders have a vital role to play, both in providing spiritual leadership, and utilising their influence within communities to amplify messages of peace, and limit incitement to violent extremism.

Following two days of consultations among religious leaders from different faiths across Africa, together with faith-based organisations, subject experts, the United Nations, and others, this plan of action was drafted to provide guidance to all stakeholders on how best to promote human rights, prevent and counter incitement, hostility and violence, confront extremist ideology, and prevent gender-based violence.

The bulk of the recommendations are made toward religious leaders, including the need to: ground beliefs in human rights principles, act as role models and messengers of peace, avoid being politically manipulated, establish and strengthen Councils of Peace and Solidarity at national or sub-regional level, and develop an inter-faith code of conduct for preaching. Religious leaders are also called upon to help eradicate incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence, and respond to such situations to stop tensions from escalating.

Among the many recommendations are some concerning the promotion inter-faith activities within the media, who are urged to collaborate with religious leaders to help disseminate messages of inclusiveness and social cohesion, as well as for enhancing the education of religious leaders and actors. A section is also dedicated to the issue of gender-based violence, wherein religious leaders are urged to strongly condemn such violence, and take a re-integration approach toward victims to ensure they are not stigmatised. Finally, the plan makes recommendations for the government, among which is a call to treat all religions with equal…

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From vulnerability to empowerment: faith-based aid organizations, secular aid organizations and the well-being of rural widows in Abia State, Nigeria.

Publisher: University of Leicester 2016
Author: C. V. Nwokoro

Widows in Nigeria, particularly in rural areas, can often be subject to discrimination, retribution, and exploitation. In efforts to overcome the impact of this harmful cultural practice, humanitarian aid organisations and development initiatives have begun to focus on the empowerment of rural widows. However, despite the provision of services by humanitarian organisations to mitigate the widows’ sufferings, there remains a proportional population of widows living in abject poverty and suffering from discriminations and deprivations in Nigeria. This comprehensive study examines the consequences of widows’ usage of the services of faith-based organisations and secular aid organisations to empower themselves in rural communities in Abia state Nigeria. It seeks to explore the ways the widows’ demonstrate their agency while receiving the support of the aid organisations, and emphasise the implication of prioritising their voice, perspectives and aspirations in the empowerment process.

The study adopted relational autonomy, capability, and cultural and institutional approaches as a framework to analyse the various levels (micro, meso and macro) that rural widows in Nigeria could be empowered. To explore these various levels, the study focused on: the widows’ perceptions of their vulnerabilities in their rural communities, and how their vulnerability translates to choices they make to transform their lives; the extent to which the aid organisations made attempts to address the needs of the widows in their service delivery; and ways the widows empowered themselves in the rural communities, especially when the services of the aid organisations were not available. The study used the constructivist ethnography and comparative approach, relying mainly on observations and semi-structured interviews carried out over a period of 7 months by four aid organisations (two faith-based, and two secular) in 12 communities in Abia state Nigeria, where the aid organisations operate. The sample population was the widow beneficiaries, and the staff of the aid organisations.

The research revealed that although the aid organisations were the major providers of services to the widows, the widows also empowered themselves through their individual and collective capacities, and by utilising support from indigenous groups and social networks to enhance their well-being in their communities. This despite the fact that widowhood stigmatisation and discriminatory practices infringed these women’s right to self-esteem, respect and dignity. The study also shows the importance of including all levels at which women can operate as agents in any assessment of rural widows’ empowerment. The outcome from the different levels of analysis showed that the grassroots support groups were relevant in the widows’ empowerment in the rural communities, particularly in their provision of immediate support in addressing the widows’ exertion of their agency. The study goes on to suggest that a better empowerment practice for improving the lives of rural widows in Nigeria would frame widows as beneficiaries, rather then organisational objectives, and identify their aspirations, specific needs, and the social actors who are relevant in their empowerment.

The study closes by offering some policy recommendations for advancing the empowerment of widows in rural areas in Nigeria, including that:

  • Aid organisations should play advocacy roles in lobbying for change in customs infringing women’s rights to their husbands’ property when they are widowed, and address cultural norms inhibiting their access to other resources.

  • Aid organisations should pay more attention to providing information about and access to credit facilities; the study showed that most of the widows believed that access to micro-finance banks is a plausible strategy for empowerment.

  • The study found that foreign donor guidelines worked to limit the autonomy of widows, and effected the flexibility of aid organisations. It is recommended to donors that this power imbalance be addressed by allowing aid organisations to decide how and where funds will be spent.

  • To avoid institutional damage via reliance on aid, it is recommended that donors work with aid organisations to build their capacity, and become self-reliant.

  • Collaboration with indigenous groups and communities is vital to enhancing the capacity of aid organisations, requiring investment in the development of networks and data gathering…

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Strategy on working with religious and traditional institutions and leaders

Publisher: Voices 4 Change 2014

Developed on the basis of a rapid assessment process which involved literature reviews, fieldwork, and interviews, this report details V4C’s planned strategy in a programme aimed at working with religious and traditional leaders in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment (GEWE). The report begins by providing some background, noting the systematic disadvantage and discrimination Nigerian girls face, particularly those who are poor, live rurally, or are from particular social groups. It then goes on to discuss the influence of religious and traditional institutions and leaders in creating, maintaining, and potentially fighting the systematic nature of gender inequality. On this last point, it is noted that engaging men who are opinion leaders, and working with the whole community rather than just with girls and women, has led to successful and progressive change across Nigeria.

Before presenting the strategy, the report outlines V4C’s aims, values, and guiding principles, including a number of pre-identified ‘success factors’ included commentary and chosen measures and indicators. V4C’s current work with religious and traditional leaders and institutions has two key strands: targeting attitudinal and behaviour change amongst religious and traditional institutions and leaders, and working with religious and traditional institutions and leaders to bring about attitudinal, behaviour and policy change in the wider enabling environment, with a focus on V4C’s three key focus areas: violence against women and girls (VAWG), women’s leadership, and women’s decision-making. This strategy is informed by five guiding principles: taking a long-term view; working at multiple levels, e.g. individual, institutional, community, etc.; working with others, both in terms of networking with other Nigerian civil society organisations, and identifying and supporting champions among religious and traditional leaders; ensuring ownership and promoting collaboration; and maintaining a focus on learning, particularly concerning identifying those strategies that actually work.

Regarding opportunities identified by V4C’s rapid assessment, there is considerable appetite amongst religious and traditional leaders to be involved in programming on gender issues. Additionally, it shows how most religious communities have high-level leadership or coordinating organisations which operate at the state and/or national level, and which provide guidance and support to leadership cadres at local levels. V4C can work with these structures to multiply the impact of training and sensitisation activities. Another avenue for collaboration is working with student associations in a range of religious and traditional structures, while the extensive networks of religious leaders, often including TV, radio, and print media outlets, make them ideal partners to disseminate messages.

The rapid assessment also identified a number of challenges. Firstly, while religious and traditional leaders can and should make great allies, it must be recognised that these same systems and actors often play a significant role in perpetuating patriarchy and gender inequality. A key issue emerging from the rapid assessment was that women work actively in the service of religion and religious organisations, and are often considered influential actors in the community. However, they are mostly excluded from religious hierarchies and decision-making structures and processes. Religious and traditional leaders who choose to engage with gender equality programming can also face community backlash, or even threats to their personal security, with a particular danger that they may be characterised as promoting a ‘Western agenda’ aiming to undermine the religious and cultural values of Nigeria. It is important to support champions discreetly, and ensure that all those engaging understand the risks involved first.

The report discusses the identification of a number of possible partners, and their expected results from the programme, before concluding with the preferred approaches. Having assessed the literature and working environment, it was concluded that V4C’s work to address GEWE with religious and traditional institutions and leaders will stand upon four pillars, all of which are discussed in detail:

  • Transforming the attitudes and behaviours of religious and traditional leaders through training, sensitisation and knowledge-sharing.

  • Securing commitment from high-level religious and traditional leaders and coordinating organisations to promote GEWE issues.

  • Supporting religious and traditional institutions and leaders to promote public awareness, discussion and debate on GEWE issues.

  • Engaging religious and traditional institutions and leaders in advocacy and policy change…

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Purdah: a religious practice or an instrument of exclusion, seclusion, and isolation of women in a typical Islamic setting of Northern Nigeria

Publisher: American International Journal of Contemporary Research 2014
Author: H. E. Yusuf

Purdah is a highly controversial subject, and includes many different interpretations and definitions from scholars and experts around the world. Purdah falls into two inter-woven categories. On one side is the requirement for women to cover their bodies and conceal their form. The other side is physical segregation, involving the isolation of the sexes e.g. at prayer, in associating in public, and even through the use of screened off areas within homes where other men are not allowed. This paper looks at the concept and perception of purdah and its practice in a typical Islamic setting of Northern Nigeria. The paper makes a holistic appraisal of existing literature, both academic and religious, to bring to bare the implication of meanings and interpretations of purdah based on cultural and religious practices, and to show how its practice has impacted on the women in the region.

The paper finds that purdah impacts on women in the region is a number of ways. Women are commonly denied inheritance rights, and do not have access to land and other means of production. Purdah also impacts women’s economic empowerment; as banks in Nigeria insist on getting collateral in advance of any business loan, women cannot access bank loans to start businesses. Even many of the intervention programmes introduced by the government and aimed at the empowerment of the less privileged members of the society have not impacted positively on women’s lives. The author concludes that purdah has secluded and excluded women from the social, economic and political activities in society, thereby confirming their second class status. The institution of purdah can therefore be seen to be inimical to the progress and development of the women in Northern Nigeria. Furthermore, the exploitative tendencies of purdah has put the women in such a precarious position that they lack the wherewithal to demand for, let alone get, equal rights with men….

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Gender exclusion: a study of Oro cult among Awori of Ojo, Lagos, Nigeria

Publisher: The Journal of International Social Research 2015
Author: J. Ayodele

Oro is the name of an extra-judicial resource that is used by the Yoruba people of south west Nigeria for ensuring peace. Hailing from pre-colonial times and re-emerging 56 years ago, Oro cult members once controlled administration of the land, and presently represent a potent device of social control in their various communities. Among the Awori communities of Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos, Nigeria, the Oro cult is associated with a sacred forest (Igbo Oro) and Oro sanctuary (Ojubo Oro), both of which are not accessible to non-initiates, including women. Women are further isolated during the annual Oro festival, where the coming of Oro – in long robes and wooden mask – and his followers, necessitates women to shut themselves indoors. This exclusion, cultural curfew, and curtailment of movement against women and other non-initiates has enormous implications for socio-economic progress for women, the region, and Nigeria, yet the gendered nature of the impacts of Oro have been under-researched.

To address this, this paper examines the implications of women’s exclusion from this influential and important cultural institution in terms of socio-economic equity among the Awori people. The paper draws on qualitative data sourced through 20 in–depth interviews involving the chief priests, traditional rulers, opinion leaders, community heads, and some Awori residents, complemented by archival records. The findings of the study suggest that the women themselves were displeased with the abridgement of their right of freedom of movement for the duration of Oro festival. The study concludes that the threat inherent in the widespread belief that any woman who beholds the Oro cult will die is not only discriminatory, but is also inhibitive of sustainable economic interaction. The study suggests that public policy should enable the Oro cult to focus more on public security, and minimise its life threatening trauma to Awori women in particular, and Nigerian women in…

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Preventing violent extremism through inclusive development and the promotion of tolerance and respect for diversity

Publisher: United Nations Development Programme 2016

In recent years, new waves of violent extremism based on religious, ethnic or political grounds have taken the lives of many innocent people. Extremist ideologies glorify the supremacy of a particular group, while opposing the idea of a tolerant and inclusive society. Violent extremism poses two distinct but related challenges for contemporary societies: its rise and spread across national borders, and the governance of increasingly diverse and multi-cultural societies. These challenges require us to look beyond the necessary but insufficient focus on strict security concerns, and identify and tackle the root causes in any strategy aimed at the prevention of violent extremism (PVE). That is the argument throughout this discussion paper by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which promotes the need for inclusive development and the promotion of tolerance and respect for diversity as an important component of PVE.

The paper begins with an executive summary, before providing an overview of the latest rise in violent extremism globally. The UNDP’s conceptual framework is then presented, and through literature review, the drivers of violent extremism are identified, namely: economic inequality, political exclusion, limited social mobility, injustice and corruption, the rejection of diversification in society, the normalisation of violence by media, and weak nation states. Regarding the UNDP’s conceptual framework, the discussion paper proposes eleven interlinked components which together can help in achieving PVE. These building blocks, discussed in-depth in the paper, will inform global, regional and national strategies for PVE:

  • Promoting a rule of law and human rights-based approach to PVE.

  • Enhancing the fight against corruption.

  • Enhancing participatory decision-making and increasing civic space at national and local levels.

  • Providing effective socio-economic alternatives to violence for groups at risk.

  • Strengthening the capacity of local governments for service delivery and security.

  • Supporting credible internal intermediaries to promote dialogue with alienated groups and re-integration of former extremists.

  • Promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

  • Engaging youth in building social cohesion.

  • Working with faith-based organisations and religious leaders to counter the abuse of religion by violent extremists.

  • Working with the media to promote human rights and tolerance.

  • Promoting respect for human rights, diversity and a culture of global citizenship in schools and universities.

Finally, the paper presents an organisational strategy based upon research, advocacy, and action conducted by the UNDP, concentrating on three key aspects: policy research and advocacy; action oriented agenda at regional and country level; and the UNDP’s implementing capacity. These are summarised in the executive summary, with key points being that:

  • The initiative will specifically look at the role of women, youth, religious organisations and leaders, and the media when analysing problems and generating solutions, as well as at the way these roles play out in diverse socio-cultural and political settings.

  • The research agenda will seek to contribute to a better understanding of the challenges hindering effective governance of diversity in multi-cultural and multi-confessional societies.

  • UNDP will develop advocacy and communications toolkits for outreach to alienated and radicalised groups and individuals.

  • Using the building blocks for PVE, UNDP will support the design and adaptation of regional, sub-regional, national and sub-national strategies.

  • In implementing this corporate initiative, UNDP will work with interested member states, development partners, media, academia, the private sector, youth groups, women’s organisations, faith-based organisations, and judicial, law enforcement and security communities.

  • Strategies at the national level will consider the design of both new initiatives, and a review and adaptation of UNDP’s existing portfolio of…

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Nigeria: fractured and forgotten: discrimination and violence along religious fault-lines,

Publisher: 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative 2016

If immediate action is not taken, religious minorities in northern Nigeria will continue to face policies and practices that seek to remove their very presence, while the violence of Boko Haram and Fulani militants will further compound one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. That is the central message that emerges from this comprehensive report by the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, which examines in detail the current state of discrimination and violence along religious fault-lines in Nigeria. Nigeria, the report finds, is on the verge of fracturing along these faults, as ethnic and religious minorities in the north face systematic and systemic discrimination, and terroristic activities by Boko Haram and Fulani militants profoundly and negatively impacts on the lives of Muslims and Christians alike, resulting in over two million internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The report begins by presenting the political, geographical, and social context of the conflict ridden region of northern Nigeria and the Middle Belt region. It provides background to the IDP crisis, a description of Boko Haram and the Fulani militants, and statistics on the numbers of fatalities, abandoned churches, and abductees. The report then goes on to detail: the various ways in which discrimination impacts those in northern Nigeria, including under-development and the targeting of religious minorities; the explosion of violence that accompanied the rise of Boko Haram, and the four-stages of the groups development; and the threat of the Fulani militants, and the accelerating violence in the Middle Belt. Finally, the report presents four case studies from the region, including: Kadarako, Nasarawa State, and Sho, Plateau State, which are both effectively under siege from Fulani militants; Jol, also of Plateau State, which have suffered over $1.9m worth of damage to crops, homes, and churches with no government support; and Agatu, Benue State, where Boko Haram have recently razed ten villages to the ground.

The report has a comprehensive set of recommendations that are highlighted toward the beginning of the document. The recommendations are divided into four groups, each aimed at a different stakeholder: the U.S. government, the United Nations, the Nigerian government, and individuals, churches, and denominations in Nigeria, the U.S., and around the world. Among the recommendations are:

  • As one of the most important and influential partners Nigeria has, the U.S. government is urged to: create a special envoy for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region; insist on a comprehensive roadmap to peace, the nature of which is outlined in ten key points that any such roadmap must address; strengthen the USAID offices in order to ensure that the humanitarian crisis is vigorously engaged; support the full and transparent establishment of the Atrocities Prevention Board; and use their influence to facilitate action via the UN.

  • The UN are advised to organise a visit by the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur of IDPs to Nigeria, with the commissioning of a formal and comprehensive report to the Security Council, and officially categorise the crisis in Nigeria as an L3 humanitarian crisis.

  • To the Nigerian government, the report recommends that they: establish a comprehensive roadmap to peace directed by a high ranking member of government, and inclusive of multiple stakeholders at all levels; expand the activities of the National Emergency Management Agency to ensure that all IDPs receive the support they need; create a mechanism that would allow affected families to register the data of their missing; end the two-tiered system of “indigenous” and “settler” rights; enhance the capacity of the Nigerian security forces, including mobile units; and end the culture of impunity by ensuring that all those who participate in violence are held accountable within a system of fair due process.

  • There is much that religious institutions and individuals can do to help; institutions, from denomination annual meetings to churches, can issue statements, train and educate leaders, utilise media and networks to raise awareness, and organise increased humanitarian assistance, while individuals can contact denominations, church leaders, and member of congress to stand with…

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Beyond Boko Haram: fundamentalism in Nigeria

Publisher: New Humanist 2016
Author: C. Nagarajan

Writing in the New Humanist, Nigerian human rights activist and author Chitra Nagarajan raises the issue of the rising level of strict religious interpretation in Nigeria, and asks whether anything can be done to effectively combat the subsequent negative impacts on women, girls, and vulnerable groups. Chitra begins by contextualising the issue, noting the failure to pass legislation against child marriage due to concern the change was “un-Islamic” and the subsequent public debates, and the impact of Boko Haram on internal displacement, food security, and access to education, particular for girls. Yet these simple narratives conceal a deeper and more complex influence from strict religious thought that exists throughout Nigerian culture. In the article, Chitra explains how rising levels of extremist and fundamentalist thought, and the cultural attitudes they embody and engender, is impacting communities, women, and children through violence, discrimination, child marriage, and the denial of education to girls across vast swathes of the country.

Chitra gives examples of how religious fundamentalism is impacting the lives of Nigerians, from death sentences being handed down for blasphemy, to accusations of witchcraft, to the introduction of Shari’a to Nigeria’s north after the end of military rule in 1999, and which was subsequently influenced by more hard-line thought from groups in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Iran. Pre-Islamisation, traditional northern Nigerian beliefs and practices had been more syncretic, adopting and mixing elements from different and older cultures; now, people are more afraid of being seen to condone anything remotely “pagan”. Meanwhile, many see Christianity as also imposing and erasing traditional culture and identity.

A combination of religion, cultural norms and patriarchy also hinders access to education, yet research has shown many imam’s as being open to having secular, as well as Islamic, education that serves both girls and boys. Yet often they face resistance from parents worried about their children being corrupted by what they perceive as “western” learning. Chitra closes her piece by mentioning various ways in which activists and religious leaders are working to tackle the issue, and notes the negative influence of politicians that use religious arguments to divert from issues of class and…

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Faith-inspired initiatives to tackle the social determinants of child marriage

Publisher: Taylor and Francis Group 2015
Author: A. Karam

Tackling the issue of child marriage requires recognition of a number of economic, structural, and social factors such as the need to support many children, a lack of educational opportunities for girls, and powerful traditions and social norms enforced by families and communities. Girls who marry before the age of 18 are more likely to have lower educational attainment having been made to leave school earlier, have a greater chance of experiencing unwanted pregnancy, and are at greater risk of sexual and reproductive health morbidities and maternal mortality. This journal article looks at some of the root causes underlying child marriage through the prism of social determinants, and the role that faith-based organisations (FBOs) and faith-inspired initiatives could play in ending the practice. The article begins by focusing on social determinants (the conditions in which people are born, grow up, live, work, and age) and socio-cultural norms (including religion) combine to influence a person’s opportunity to be healthy, educated, and successful. Next, the article examines how and why faith matters by looking at instances of how governments themselves have involved FBOs, as well as citing the work of some of the FBOs currently dealing with the issue of child marriage.

The article then presents a half dozen profiles of FBOs presently dealing with child marriage, including: USAID, amongst whose work was an educational initiative on social media called “Let Girls Learn”; World Vision International, who have been providing reproductive health education in Bangladesh; the GHR Foundation in Kenya, a Catholic institution who are funding efforts to empower religious leaders to work with schools to reduce child marriage; Tostan in Senegal, who use a combination of non-formal education and social mobilisation to advance its goal of empowering communities, and reducing the practices of child marriage and FGM; the Institute for Health Management Pachod in India, who started providing year-long life skills programmes for unmarried 11-17-year-old girls often denied formal education; and the End Child Marriage programme in Ethiopia, which works with economic incentives to provide school materials to help keep girls in school, and enable out-of-school girls to re-enroll.

The author concludes that current programs, while contributing to delaying marriage among specific populations, are insufficient for ending the practice anytime soon. Less attention is being paid to mitigating the impact of child marriage in the lives of girls, and to making the case at the highest levels so that child marriage comes to be seen as an important hindrance to development. It is increasingly clear that engaging communities to change social and cultural norms is no longer a matter of choice, but rather of necessity, and so it is vital that programmes and interventions follow the evidence that shows working with religious actors, and FBOs in particular, offers multiple entry points for building on current efforts. Such ‘faith-centric’ efforts remain less funded by mainstream secular development actors focused on “social norm and behavioural change” programs, and who often see religion in general, and faith-based actors in particular, as marginal to other social determinants. Given ongoing geopolitical realities, faith-related endeavours are, if anything, becoming more prominent in today’s developmental landscape, and to realise the human rights presently denied girls by child marriage, religious actors must be among the most prominent parts of the…

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