The Future of Research
Child marriage and mental health are intertwined issues that demand urgent attention. As we gaze into the future of research, there is much promise for understanding, addressing and preventing the effects of child marriage on mental well-being of the girl child and women in their diversity who have been traumatized by the scourge of child marriage, a form of violence against women and girls. The important points that emphasize the future of research in the intersection of child marriage and mental health shall dwell on evidence-based interventions that empower survivors and bring about lasting change.
Collaboration is important as we focus on the future of research in child marriage and mental health, they are multifaceted issues with several layers that require peeling off. Sociologists, psychologists, public health practitioners, lawyers, gender activists and feminist economists will collaborate to come up with a comprehensive exploration of the different factors that are at play. With such diverse viewpoints, research will result in a holistic understanding of child marriage practices and the development and design of interventions that will eradicate child marriage in our societies. These interventions that are informed by research will address the complex power, social, cultural and economic dynamics involved in child marriage and mental health consequences.
Research is a beacon that guides our understanding of the psychological consequences of child marriage. By examining the experiences and lived realities of children in child marriages and their vulnerabilities, research can uncover the mental health issues, risks of depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal tendencies. Such research, when it is scaled up, can provide much needed data for interventions that are tailor-made for the unique mental health challenges faced by the survivors of child marriage.
As we discuss the future of research, research has to be conducted to address the barriers encountered by survivors in accessing mental health services. Research helps us understand the various barriers which will lead to the development of interventions that will address culture, and the creation and promotion of mental health centres offering comprehensive mental health services for the survivors of child marriages.
In discussing the future of research, we have to consider the pivotal role that education plays in empowering the survivors of child marriage. Research should explore the impact of education in offering survivors opportunities for personal growth, independence and improved mental well-being .In addition, being educated promotes the mental well-being of the survivors as they will have several options to choose from. This calls for investment in education, awareness campaigns and community engagement.
When all is said, the most key aspect is to let the survivors speak out, write about their experiences in the form of I Stories, act – all of which are therapeutic. For example, the community conversations used in our MARCH-ZIM project kept the participants engaged throughout. This participatory methodology should be adopted in future research.
Dr Jean Mandewo
Jean is a Lecturer and Gender Studies Coordinator at the Women’s University in Africa. She is interested in researching on the experiences of vulnerable groups in society and the resourcefulness of the coping strategies they adopt to survive, and make a difference in their lives.