The role of social cash transfer in influencing educational and sexual decision making among girls in Mazabuka, Monze and Pemba districts, Zambia

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Milimo, Joyce
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The University of Zambia
The importance of ensuring that girls are educated at the secondary level has been recognized as critical to the national development of any country. Worldwide 62 million adolescents are estimated to have dropped out of school due to poverty. Many unmarried adolescent girls in low income countries engage in sexual relationships for cash and gifts, this has led to an increase in early pregnancy, early marriages and school drop-outs. Social Cash Transfers (SCTs) are the main social assistance intervention used in developing countries to mitigate effects of poverty and are viewed as key to social solidarity and development. Social Cash Transfers have shown effectiveness in improving girls’ school participation and help postpone pregnancy and marriage. The purpose of this study was to explore the role of social cash transfers in influencing education and sexual decision making among girls. The study utilized qualitative case study design. Data was collected from 18 IDIs and 4 FGDs among 48 school-going girls aged 14 to 17 years and in grade 8 receiving SCTs from the Research Initiative to Support Girls’ Education (RISE). The participants and schools were selected using purposive sampling and 6 schools participated in the study. Scripts from the field were transcribed manually, thematic method was used to analyse data by identifying major themes and sub-themes. SCTs impacted on girls’ sexual decision making and also led to economic empowerment.The girls had experience in the following five areas; benefits of girls’ education; SCTs led to concentration on education and hope for a bright future. On experience with family and community; SCTs increased support for girls from parents and resistance to bad advice. On Sexual decision making; SCTs led to assertiveness, enhanced self-esteem and independent decision making. On economic empowerment; SCTs saved as a source of pocket money, led to reduced chances of early pregnancy and early marriages, improved school attendance and reduced burden of school fees. Experience with community, siblings and friends; SCTs led to supportive and unsupportive atmospheres. The support given to girls by RISE helped to reduce the desire for sexual relationships with boys for cash and gifts hence also contributed to a decrease in early pregnancy, early marriages and school drop outs. Girls were now more focused on their education. SCTs led to the following benefits for girls; concentration on education and gave hope for a bright future for both the girls and their parents; Increased support for girls from parents, siblings and community; Increased girls’ resistance to bad advice; Led to girls’ assertiveness, enhanced self-esteem and independent decision making; Source of pocket money for the girls and reduced chances of early pregnancy and early marriages; Improved school attendance and reduced burden of school fees; Created both supportive and unsupportive atmospheres in the community. The Government, RISE and stakeholders should roll out SCTs to other schools within the country experiencing an increase in the number of early pregnancy; early marriages and school dropout. Keywords: Early pregnancy, marriage, social cash transfer, sexuality, school drop-outs.
School drop-outs--Girl child--Zambia , adolescent pregnancies--Zambia , social cash transfer , Girl child--Education--Zambia