Beyond Marriage: Empowering Girls to Be More Than Brides

Child marriage remains a concerning issue, particularly in Southeast Asia. Previous studies have highlighted its detrimental effects on women’s vulnerability, impacting fertility control, maternal health care, and human rights.

In northern Thailand, historical biases favouring sons over daughters hinder girls’ higher education pursuits, leading to early marriages or agricultural work, eroding their opportunities and self-worth. The Center for Girls Foundation (CFGF) notes significant hurdles for girls in education after primary school and has conducted research regarding child marriage, aiming to effectively address gender inequality issues in the Chiang Khong district. This time, the CFGF focuses on the Lahu community in Chiang Khong District, an ethnic minority in Thailand facing challenges such as statelessness and the loss of educational and marital rights, primarily affecting girls. The Lahu people, historically isolated, maintain traditional beliefs emphasising male dominance and undervaluing girls, except for their fertility.

Despite this conservative environment, changes are emerging. More Lahu parents desire higher education for both genders, necessitating governmental and societal support. The significance behind this research includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Capturing the Lahu community’s perspectives on child marriage through interviews.
  2. Presenting potential solutions to prevent early marriages, a key mission of the CFGF.

Methodologically, CFGF conducted interviews in Song Pi Nong village, Chiang Khong district with three focus groups: Lahu girls, parents, and a male community leader in November 2023. A questionnaire focused on socio-cultural perspectives, individual aspirations, and gender roles, aiming to understand the community’s views and challenges related to child marriage. The interviews ensured authentic insights, free from external biases.

By delicately conducting research in local communities, the CFGF aims to shed light on the issue of child marriage within the Lahu community and potentially inform solutions for similar challenges among other hill minority groups in northern Thailand.


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