Therefore, this study aims to understand the role of multilevel stakeholders working to end child marriage, focusing on how collective action between multi-sectors can be operationalized to prevent and end child marriage. Furthermore, with specific efforts in progress globally through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal 5.3, which seeks to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child marriage, by 2030, stakeholders share recommendations on how progress can be accelerated to meet the targets.
Methods: 22 semi-structured in-depth interviews and 18 archival analyses were utilized to elicit the perspectives of 'key multilevel stakeholders' from the government, NGOs, local and faith leaders, advocates, educators, health, CSOs, media, and the United Nations. Targeted were key decision-makers on implementation strategies for ending child marriage interventions in Malawi. Participants were identified using purposive sampling via the government responsible ministry, including networks and coalitions focused on running child marriage campaigns in Malawi. The purpose of the study was to understand and gain further insights on how ending child marriage interventions were being implemented in Malawi, primarily converging on multi-sectoral collaboration action between multilevel stakeholders. 'Qualitative methods in implementation science drove the study' while the human rights-based framework and African feminism were the theoretical lenses used to guide the interviews and data analysis. Data were coded using Dedoose software, and thematic analysis was used as a constant comparative method by deriving basic concepts from data and comparing them with other data to facilitate meaningful categorization.
Findings: Findings revealed that lack of collaboration and coordination stems from several challenges, including working in silos, competition because of looking for funding, not sharing ideas, and different lenses/frameworks used by mainly the child rights and women's rights activists. These challenges negatively impact the implementation of interventions, specifically, the inability to measure progress towards goals leading to slow progress in realizing results. In addition, different lenses/frameworks are being used by stakeholders despite the government advocating for the national strategy on ending child marriage which was developed. For the most part, the government lacked financial and human capacity, leading to implementation being heavily influenced by donors through International NGOs. Lastly, stakeholders acknowledged that current interventions were not sustainable and proposed alternatives for preventing child marriage in the long term, such as involving boys and men as champions, keeping girls longer in school, and working with local structures as some of the interventions.
Conclusion and Implications: Multi-sectoral collaborations at all levels are crucial to making progress on eliminating child marriage. Therefore, this study's findings will help practitioners develop sustainable interventions for ending child marriage, improve the working relationships among multi-stakeholders implementing interventions on ending child marriage, and guide donors on which ending child marriage interventions should be funded.