Impacts of multisectoral cash plus programs on marriage and fertility after 4 years in pastoralist Kenya: A randomized trial

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Purpose: Early marriage has multiple drivers including cultural and social norms alongside lack of educational and economic opportunities. This complexity may explain why few programs have demonstrated marriage delays and suggests multisectoral interventions are necessary. This study examined a 2-year multisectoral program designed to delay marriage in a marginalized setting. Methods: The study used a prospective 80-cluster randomized trial following up 2,147 girls aged 11–14 years from 2015 to 2019. Interventions included community dialogs about inequitable gender norms (violence prevention), a conditional cash transfer (education), weekly group meetings with health and life skills training (health), and financial literacy training (wealth creation). Villages were randomized to one of four study arms: (1) violence prevention only (V-only); (2) violence prevention and education (VE); (3) VE and health (VEH); or (4) all four interventions (VEHW). We used analysis of covariance to estimate intent-to-treat impacts of each study arm with an education component, as well as a pooled study arm combining the VE, VEH, and VEHW arms, in reference to V-only, 2 years after the intervention ended, when girls were 15–18 years old. Results: There were small but insignificant reductions on primary outcomes in unadjusted analyses that were larger and significant in adjusted analyses. Effects were particularly large for girls not in school at baseline—the pooled study arm reduced marriage by 18.0 and pregnancy by 15.6 percentage points, a relative reduction of 34% and 43%, respectively. Discussion: The article demonstrates the potential for multisectoral interventions with education components to delay early marriage in an impoverished, socially conservative, pastoral setting.