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Addressing Teen Pregnancy and Early Marriage in The Gambia

The persistent high rates of early marriage below the age of 18 is a global concern. Over the last two decades, early marriage in The Gambia declined significantly (from 58% to 30%), however this rate is still high. The reasons for the decline and continuing practice of early marriage, despite the 2010 National Child Protection Strategy Plan, are not well understood. Very few studies have been conducted to find out what and how local factors influence decisions about child marriage in rural Gambian communities.

The overall aim of this study is to determine the factors that either perpetuate or lead to a decline in or early marriage. The information generated will be used to design a relevant package of interventions that will be tested in Lower Badibu District, the second poorest region in the country. This study will involve a cross-sectional household survey with a sample of 915 respondents aged 10 years and above, stratified by ethnicity and age. The research team will convene 28 focus group discussions within each of the four ethnic groups for seven categories of respondents defined by age and sex and key informant interviews with 173 community-based decision makers will also be conducted.

The expected outcome of this project will be changes in knowledge of and attitudes towards early marriage and its prevention at the individual and community levels following the implementation of the package of interventions. The lessons learned will be used to identify factors that can facilitate or hinder the scaling up of the interventions to other communities to reduce the prevalence of early marriage in The Gambia.

The project is closely aligned with the Government of Canada’s new feminist international assistance policy, the strategic priorities detailed in the 2016-2030 WHO led Global Strategy for Women, Children and Adolescents, and the overarching 2030 global agenda for sustainable development.

Project ID
Project Status
60 months
IDRC Officer
Marie-Gloriose Ingabire
Total Funding
CA$ 600,000.00
Global Health
Maternal and Child Health
Global Health
Project Leader
Mat Lowe
Society for Study of Women's Health


Examining ethnic differences in age at sexual debut among adolescent girls in the Gambia

Examining ethnic differences in age at sexual debut among adolescent girls in the Gambia


Whether age at sexual debut is influenced by adolescents’ ethnicity has not been examined in the Gambia. The aim of this study was to assess ethnic differences in age at sexual debut among girls in 24 rural Gambian settlements. A cross-sectional household survey of 181 respondents aged (10-19 years) was conducted among girls belonging to the three main ethnic groups (Mandinka, Fula and Wolof). Descriptive statistics and ordinal logistic regression were used to show the onset of sexual intercourse and describe the patterns of sexual debut by ethnic group among respondents. All the analyses were conducted in Stata 12.0. The study findings showed that the lowest median age at sexual debut is among Mandinka and Wolof girls (14 years). The results of ordinal logistic regression indicate that girls in the Mandinka and Wolof ethnic groups are approximately 20% less likely to initiate sex at an early age than girls in the Fula ethnic group. On the other hand, girls with more than 1 year of education are less likely to initiate sex at an early age than those with less than 1 year of education. It was also found that girls who live with their mothers are 71% less likely to have an early sexual debut than those who do not. These findings suggest ethnic differences in age at sexual debut among girls in the Gambia. The findings also highlight the importance of female education and living with a mother in reducing the chances of early sexual debut among adolescent girls.

Author(s): Lowe, Mat, Rojas, Bomar Mendez

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