Despite progress in expanding access to education for girls globally, important barriers remain. Girls’ success in school – and after leaving school – is determined in part by characteristics of and factors in her household and community. Many policies and programs are based on an assumption that continued progress toward gender equality in education is hampered by early marriage and adolescent pregnancy. While education and age at marriage (and pregnancy) are positively correlated in many settings, evidence of a causal relationship is more limited. The effectiveness of policies and programs aiming to improve gender equality in education depends on a clear understanding of the barriers to success for girls, which are complex and vary between settings. This paper begins by providing an overview of trends in child marriage globally, as well as the evolution of international and domestic policies outlawing child marriage, followed by information on adolescent pregnancy levels, policies, and programs, with a particular focus on schoolgirl pregnancy. The next section describes the challenges in disentangling the relationship between child marriage, adolescent pregnancy, and schooling, and provides some evidence of the nature of these relationships. Next, four country case studies provide an opportunity to explore these issues in more detail in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Kenya. Last, policy and program recommendations are presented.
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