2016 Annual Report

We Defended the
Rights of Married Girls

In the country with the highest rate of child marriage on earth, we reached girls whose needs have been ignored.

Sexual and reproductive health is essential for young people to realize their full potential and protect their futures. This year, we ramped up our efforts to meet the urgent needs of Niger’s married girls.

“This work is difficult and important. No one’s doing it,” says Dr. Sani Aliou, Pathfinder’s Country Representative in Niger. “Once these girls are married, they are hard to reach. They become hidden.”

Pulled out of school and moved into their husbands’ homes, Niger’s married girls are often pressured to prove their fertility fast. Many require their husbands’ permission to use contraception.

“So how do you find them?” asks Dr. Aliou. “How do you address the imbalance of power between married girls and husbands? Or enable them to have a choice about pregnancy? We needed to find out.”

This past year, Pathfinder launched one of the most rigorous research projects in our history. In partnership with the Center on Gender Equity and Health at UC San Diego, we’ve begun testing several different approaches for increasing contraceptive use among married adolescents in Niger.

“Our research will tell us what works best and what’s most cost effective,” says Dr. Aliou. “West Africa has had so few programs for adolescents. Governments are hungry for evidence.”

Pathfinder is making sure they have it. As part of our project, we’re even embedding ethnographers, who study people and cultures, in villages to document the changes they see among married girls and their husbands as a result of our work. It’s a first for Pathfinder.