Vulnerability to child marriage: perspectives of adolescent girls from a resource-poor rural community in Manicaland, Zimbabwe.
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This study examined the vulnerability of rural adolescent girls to child marriage. In particular, the research explored how twenty adolescent girls who were conveniently recruited from a resource-poor rural community in the Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe understood and communicated their vulnerability to child marriage. The adolescent girls who participated in this study emerged from a resource-poor context where they were oppressed by poverty, heteropatriarchy, and prevailing gender norms characterized by the sociocultural and economic ecologies of Manicaland. The study used focus group discussions and in-depth interviews to gain insight into the adolescent girls` understandings of their vulnerability to child marriage. Analysis in the study was informed by two theories. First, feminist theories provided a framework for understanding how gender shaped the lives of rural adolescent girls, and in turn, rendered them socially inferior and susceptible to the experience of child marriage. Second, the social norms theory provided a framework for understating how prevailing social and cultural norms endangered marginalised and exposed adolescent girls to perilous practices such as child marriage. The data generated in the study were analysed using a thematic approach. Findings revealed that the adolescent girls who participated in this study were vulnerable to child marriage. They understood their vulnerability to child marriage in several ways that were tied to their gender identities, their inferior social positions as girls, enduring household and community poverty, perilous gender norms and inequality, heteropatriarchy, and religious and cultural norms. Within this context, the participants reported that their agency to resist child marriage was limited. The findings have implications for ameliorative programming and interventions that are focused on giving adolescent girls safe spaces and the voice to challenge gender, sociocultural, and the heteropatriarchy that rendered them vulnerable to child marriage.