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Girls & Women

A simple way to end child marriages: livestock

1 in 3 girls in the developing world are married before their 18th birthday. If current trends continue, 150 million girls will be married off before 18 in the next 10 years.

But new research sheds light on a way to reduce this outrageous number.

The Population Council conducted studies in Ethiopia and Tanzania trying to identify ways to prevent child marriage and they saw some startling results.

One measure in particular proved remarkably effective: giving families chickens or goats.

1 goat in Tanzania and 2 chickens in Ethiopia led to girls being significantly less likely to be married off.

Why is that? Simple. Families that receive livestock become more financially stable, which removes the urgency of wanting to marry off a daughter.


Girls are then able to pursue an education and other opportunities that allow them to rise out of poverty and gain independence.

Child marriage primarily affects the poorest families who often feel that providing a daughter for marriage makes economic sense, either because they can’t materially support the girl or marriage provides an additional stream of money.

The girl who gets married, however, will likely remain stuck in poverty and then pass the legacy of poverty to her children.

This new study adds to a growing body of research that demonstrates that providing families with either money or resources improves their situation more than other interventions.

A goat provides milk, a chicken provides eggs, and one or the other provides families with enough stability to avoid desperate measures.