Girls in developing countries are exposed to a number of traditional practices that have strong, negative effects on their future. Early marriage is common in many developing countries and Malawi – where about 10% of girls are married before the age of 15 – makes no exception. Child marriage, in addition to being a violation of human rights, compromises the development of girls and often results in early pregnancy and social isolation, leaving them poorly educated which in turn reinforces the gendered nature of poverty. Moreover, the age at which a girl gets married is closely related to the age at which she becomes sexually active and to the number of children she will have. This is an important fact to consider in the context of developing countries where pregnancy related complications are one of the leading causes of mortality for young girls. The measurement of the prevalence of these harmful traditional practices, such as child marriage, female genital cutting and initiation rituals, is particularly difficult. For this reason there is scarce evidence on the popularity of this practices in the Malawian context. This research project aims at measuring the prevalence of different harmful traditional practices and to shed light on their underlying behavioral mechanisms. Indeed, although data suggests that cultural, institutional, and social aspects play an important role, little is known on how social norms develop inside a group and thus on what interventions would be effective in addressing these issues.
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