CISMAC study in Zambia receives GLOBVAC funding
The study will examine links between adolescent pregnancies and different approaches to empower adolescent girls in Zambia.
A team of Norwegian and Zambian researchers, led by associate professor Ingvild Sandøy at the Centre for International Health/Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care, has just been awarded GLOBVAC funding for their project on adolescent pregnancies in Zambia. The project is affiliated to and partly funded by the Centre for Intervention Science in Maternal and Child Health, CISMAC, at UiB. The partner institutions are the University of Zambia, Chr. Michelsen’s Institute (CMI) and the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH).This project is one of six that are supported in this GLOBVAC call.
Adolescent pregnancies are a substantial public health problem
Adolescent pregnancies carry risks for both the young mothers and their babies. Keeping girls in school can potentially protect girls from getting pregnant. In Zambia, 35% of young rural girls have given birth at the age of 18 years, and the pregnancy rates are particularly high among girls who are out-of-school. Secondary school participation was estimated to be 35% in 2013.
The need to find ways to prevent early marriage and pregnancy are high on the political agenda in Zambia and many other low and middle income countries. A number of studies have found that economic support to girls and/or their families can increase school enrolment and attendance, and a couple of trials have found effects on postponement of childbearing and marriage. Other studies also indicate that widespread myths and negative social norms are barriers to adolescent girls using modern contraceptives, thus contributing to high rates of early pregnancy. However, there is little robust research from Africa on how sexual and reproductive health programmes can be delivered in a way that actually affects early marriage and pregnancy rates.
Economic support, community meetings and youth clubs
The new project is entitled “The effectiveness of a girl empowerment programme on early childbearing, marriage and school dropout in rural Zambia: A cluster trial”. It will be a cluster randomized controlled trial. The aim is to measure the impact on adolescent childbearing and marriage rates of providing economic support to girls and families, setting up youth club meetings with a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education curriculum, and dialogue-based community and parent meetings. The economic support will include covering junior secondary school fees as well as monthly payments to girls and their families to help adolescent girls stay in school and reduce the pressure for her to get married early.
If the interventions are effective, the benefits for women and children in Zambia and similar contexts may be great. Increased schooling among adolescent girls is likely to empower them economically and cognitively, and to enable them to better protect the health of their children and themselves. Delaying first marriage is likely to contribute to delayed age at first pregnancy, and lower adolescent pregnancy rate is likely to reduce morbidity and mortality among women and children.