Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
Kirk Y. Williams
The underage marriage of girls (UMG) practice by some parents continues to occur in Bo Town, Sierra Leone, and it is a problem. Regardless of the negative consequences, parents continue to marry off their young girls who become wives of rebels and participate in the civil war. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the perceptions of adult women between 18 and 24 who experienced child marriage, parents who married off their young girls, and community leaders to understand why the UMG persisted in Bo Town. The theoretical frameworks used in this study were the social cognitive theory and self-efficacy behavioral theory. Data were collected through semi structured interviews. Participants in this study consisted of 5 community leaders, 5 adult women between 18 and 24 who experienced UMG before 18 years old, and 5 parents who married off their underage girls in the Bo Town district. Interview transcripts were analyzed, coded, and 16 themes emerged. Some of the themes included poverty, lack of awareness, education, enforcement, monitoring, leadership, child marriage, domestic violence, accountability, responsibility, dowry payment, and female genital mutilation. The findings may influence social change by using practices such as educating, monitoring, enforcing the banning of the UMG policy relentlessly. Furthermore, implementation of mentorship programs, counseling, leadership, and awareness training to young girls and parents could reduce the UMG practice in Bo Town. Consequently, if young girls are educated and allowed access to resources, they could become empowered and productive members of society as a whole, and the UMG problem may diminish in the Bo community.