Voices of Child Marriage Survivors: Understanding the experiences of child marriage through the first voice perspectives

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Kazungu, Jeanine
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Mount Saint Vincent University
This qualitative thesis explored and interpreted the experiences of child marriage survivors through their first voice perspectives (former child brides) and examined the exit strategies that they used to escape their unions. The study examined five video data recordings published on the YouTube platform in the form of recorded testimonies voiced and narrated by child marriage survivors. Video recordings were transcribed verbatim, and an inductive approach was used for coding and organizing themes that emerged from the data. Simone de Beauvoir's feminist theory, plus a child's right-based approach, along with other feminists' perspectives, were utilized as the theoretical framework to interpret the findings. The findings indicated that child marriage is a gendered problem that undermines the rights of girls and has detrimental outcomes on the young bride's health. Four themes emerged: The coercion of parents and these women’s lack of agency in decisions to marry; experiences of interrupted education, childhoods and health consequences; and society's failure in preventing their marriages, or in supporting them while in the union. The analysis also found that – apart from acquiring an education and police involvement - there were no common elements, or a direct path, in the ways in which the child brides escaped. The routes used varied according to the severity of their experiences and the influences of the environment in which they lived. Listening to the voices of former, current and potential child brides was deemed to be central in the movement against the practice of child marriage and in their protection.