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  • YEMEN - Regional Study on Child Marriage 1

    UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional O�ce

    YEMEN Country Brief

    UNICEF Regional Study on Child Marriage In the Middle East and North Africa

  • This report was developed in collaboration with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The views expressed and information contained in the report are not necessarily those of, or endorsed by, UNICEF.

    Acknowledgements The development of this report was a joint effort with UNICEF regional and country offices and partners, with contributions from UNFPA. Thanks to UNICEF and UNFPA Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan, Morocco and Egypt Country and Regional Offices and their partners for their collaboration and crucial inputs to the development of the report.

    Proposed citation: ‘Child Marriage in the Middle East and North Africa – Yemen Country Brief’, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Middle East and North Africa Regional Office in collaboration with the International Center for Research on Women (IRCW), 2017.

  • YEMEN - Regional Study on Child Marriage 3

  • YEMEN - Regional Study on Child Marriage4

    YEMEN Regional Study on Child Marriage

    Key Recommendations

    Develop the capacity of local organizations to provide multi-sectoral services to at-risk and al- ready-married girls.

    Increase long-term funding to NGOs for child mar- riage programming.

    Legal Context Promote legal awareness of girls’ rights and child marriage laws.

    Evidence Generation Strengthen the coordination of research initiatives.

    Research the impact of conflict on child marriage in Yemen.

    Strengthen the Global Gender Based Violence Man- agement Information System (GBVIMS) as a source for child marriage data.

    Girls’ Voice & Agency Provide financial incentives for sending girls to school through conditional cash transfers. Implement literacy programmes for women and girls no longer in school.

    Household and Community Attitudes and Behaviours Implement holistic community program- ming to address social norms around child marriage using UNICEF Communication for Development approaches.

    Change community perceptions of the ap- propriate age for girls to marry.

    Service Delivery Incorporate child marriage prevention and re- sponse efforts into GBV and health programming.

  • YEMEN - Regional Study on Child Marriage 5

    According to UNICEF:

    PREVALENCE OF CHILD MARRIAGE According to Yemen’s most recent DHS, conducted in 2013, 31.9 per cent of women aged 20-24 years were married before 18 years of age whilst 9.4 per cent were married before age 15.11 Because the prior DHS in Ye- men occurred 16 years before, it is not advisable to use it to estimate trends in child marriage over time. However, as shown in Figure 1, when comparing the percentage of women and girls married by exact age 15 or 18 by their age cohort in the most recent DHS, there is a clear decline in the percentage of women married before both age 15 and age 18 in younger age cohorts in Yemen, indicating that the prevalence of child marriage was decreasing up to 2013. It is im- portant to note that conflict in Yemen may be revers- ing this trend, but nationally-representative data is not yet available to evaluate this possibility.

    POLITICAL & ECONOMIC CONTEXT In 2015, Yemen spiralled into civil and region- al war between Houthi forces and President Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi’s government. This led to the overthrow of the government and a Saudi-led counter-offensive. The ongoing fighting, combined with a Saudi-imposed blockade that enforced an arms embargo, have created a humanitarian emergency, pushing Yemen to the brink of famine,1 mak- ing it the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.2

    To date, the government is still facing serious security issues, further complicated by the resurgence of al-Qaeda (AQAP) and other radical Islamist groups, including the Islamic State, particularly in the south and the east of the country.3 Prior to 2014, Yemen already had significant humanitarian challenges, in- cluding, according to the World Bank, “high population growth, severe urban-rural im- balances, food and water scarcity, female il- literacy, widespread poverty and economic stagnation.”4 The country’s endemic human- itarian problems have been made worse by cross-border and regional conflict, with stag- gering numbers of civilian deaths, diseases, internal displacement, and the obliteration of infrastructure that has further exacerbated service delivery across all main sectors.5

    The crisis has left 27.4 million people, approx- imately 70 per cent of the Yemeni population, in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.6

    So far, close to 4,000 civilians have died as a result of the conflict, 14.5 million people do not have access to safe water and sanitation, and 14.8 million have limited or no access to health services, exposing them to a severe cholera crisis.7 The nutrition situation has de- teriorated, with more than 3 million children and pregnant or lactating women suffering from acute to severe acute malnutrition.8

    An estimated 2 million children have been forced out of school and roughly 2.2 million people have been internally displaced.9

    70% Are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance

    14.5 m Do not have safe water

    14.8 m Have no access to health services

    3 m suffering from malnutrition

    2.2 m Internally displaced &

    “Ongoing conflict and the deteriorating eco- nomic situation have put essential public services such as health on the verge of collapse, leaving children and women at even higher risk.” 10

    Source: World Bank 2014

    Source: World Bank 2014

  • YEMEN - Regional Study on Child Marriage6

    Figure 2: Median age at first marriage by educa- tional attainment amongst women 25-49, Yemen, 2013

    Figure 1: Percent married by exact age 15 and 18, by 5-year age cohort, Yemen, 2013

    Source: DHS 2013 12

    Note that the percent married by age 18 cannot be calculated for the youngest age cohort, since it in- cludes girls who are not yet 18.

    The median age at first marriage amongst women in Yemen ages 25 to 49 is 18.2 years, but this varies by several background char- acteristics. It is lower amongst women who live in rural areas (17.9 years versus 18.9 in urban areas) and lowest amongst those who live Al-Jawf (17.0 years) and Reimah (17.6). It does not vary widely amongst women in the lowest, second, and middle wealth quintiles (all between 17.7 and 17.9), but is higher amongst women in the fourth and highest quintiles (18.3 and 19.1, respec- tively). Figure 2, below, shows the positive association between educational attain- ment and median age at first marriage in Yemen. The median age at first marriage of women who completed secondary educa- tion is almost three years higher than those that completed none (20.5 versus 17.4). It is important to note that the causality of this association is not clear; low education may be both a cause and/or a consequence of child marriage.

    Women Married by exact age 18

    Median age at first marriage:

    Women Married by exact age 15



    17.4% 18.1%













    45- 49 40 - 44 35 - 39 30 - 34 25 - 29 20 - 24 15 - 19

    Fundamental Secondary

    No education

    Source: DHS 2013 13

    METHODOLOGY The data presented here was collected via 8 key in- formant interviews with staff in two UN agencies and six non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Inter- views were conducted during December 2016 and January 2017. All interviews were coded using NVivo 11 to distill key themes which were then organized through thematic content analysis. The findings were then organized according to the Global Pro- gramme’s five outcomes.

    Table 1: Key Informant Interviews





    Youth Leadership Development Foundation (YLDF)

    Charity Society for Social Welfare


    International Rescue Committee (IRC)

    Yemen Women’s Union











  • YEMEN - Regional Study on Child Marriage 7

    LIMITATIONS Due to the ongoing conflict in Yemen, inter- views were conducted via Skype and phone. Thus, this report presents the main findings strictly based on those eight interviews and is therefore limited to those categories of respondents, which included experts from UN agencies and NGO/Service Providers. In addition, given the political instability of the country as well as the timing of the study, not all key informants were available at the time that the data collection occurred, despite several attempts to reach out to government officials and other stakeholders working on child marriage. Considering the study’s goals and focus on scaling up promising program- matic approaches, the study focused on ser- vice providers, government officials, multi- lateral agencies and donors — all of whom would be able to identify best practices to end child marriage. As a result, the findings are only representative of these respondents’ views of promising approaches to end child marriage in Yemen.

    KEY FINDINGS The key findings are ou