Between 2009 and 2012, Dr. Erin Murphy-Graham and her research team were conducting a longitudinal study on the impact of secondary school on the lives of rural youth in Honduras. During their first visit in 2009, researchers conducted qualitative interviews with students, parents, and teachers. During their second visit in 2011, researchers found that some of the female students they were following had married and dropped out of school. At that time, child marriage (CM) was an understudied subject and little was known about it. There was a need to develop a greater and deeper understanding about this issue. In order to fill this knowledge gap, Murphy-Graham and Leal conducted an in-depth qualitative case study using revelatory cases to identify the characteristics of CM in rural areas of Honduras as well as to understand the decision-making processes involved in these relationships

The research team found that the girls exercise agency in their decision to marry. The results of this study showed that girls are not always forced to marry by their parents, community members, or their partners. Instead, in some cases, girls choose to run away with their partners in the absence of any coercion. The agency that girls exercise is simultaneously thin, opportunistic, accommodating, and oppositional. More importantly, the researchers emphasized that the decision to marry at a young age is usually made due to a lack of alternative life options as a result of poverty and no educational or economic opportunities available to them. Their findings suggest that, for education to enhance adolescent girls’ agency, it must transform the sociocultural conditions that constrain their actions, targeting individual girls, families, and communities.

These findings inspired the creation of HEY!. HEY! was created following the belief that schools can be strategic sites to address CM and gender inequality because they are powerful socialization settings where girls and boys can be exposed to learning opportunities that can influence their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.

If you want to hear more about Dr. Erin Murphy-Graham’s work listen to this podcast

Holistic Education for Youth (HEY) was born as a complementary project to the SAT Tutorial Learning System, in order to contribute to the reduction of Child Marriage and Early Pregnancy, helping students and parents to have more information about CM and Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) and, through new knowledge, to reflect on the conditions of their environment. The program seeks to contribute to the development of rural communities, promote gender equality, develop the ability to evaluate and examine reality in order to make decisions based on timely information that will allow them to change their social and cultural norms, decrease false beliefs generated about CM, strengthen unhealthy romantic relationships, increase knowledge about sexual reproductive health, strengthen communication and reduce conflicts between adolescents and their parents.

Holistic Education for Youth (HEY) aims to use the SAT program’s Basic and Middle School Centers as a strategic environment to prevent child marriage and early pregnancy, promote gender equality and egalitarian relationships. To provide youth with a protective environment where they can acquire knowledge and skills that will help them prevent early pregnancy by improving and adapting curricula to make lessons relevant to their lives.

Contribute to the reduction of child marriages and teenage pregnancy in rural Honduras by strengthening the potential of the SAT program to empower young people and promote gender equality and egalitarian relationships.

Long-term objectives include:

  1. Equip young people with the ability to critically examine cultural norms and patterns so that they can identify and address the underlying causes of early marriage and pregnancy, emphasizing gender equality and the importance of egalitarian relationships.  
  2. Reduce student dropout rates in lower and upper secondary school due to marriage and early pregnancy.
  3. Ensure that all SAT high school youth have access to Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) information and services through strengthening the SAT curriculum and through access to local partner organizations with specific SRH expertise.
  4. Create a peer mentoring system for SAT youth in high school to mentor younger students (in 7th grade) and youth who have dropped out of school with a focus on gender and SRH.
  5. Equip parents and community members with the ability to critically examine cultural norms and patterns so that they can improve communication with their children and provide support networks that foster informed decision-making processes regarding early marriage and pregnancy.
  1. The materials

These are made up of workbooks for students and parents; Living my Youth with Purpose and Youth with Equality are directed to students and How to Guide Young Children to parents; additionally, for parents there is a podcast of eight episodes, which includes the text in audio version with the topics of the workbook.

       2. Training and accompaniment

These are done through cascading, i.e., from the technical team to the field team, from the field team to the tutors, from the tutors to the upper grade students, and finally, from students to their peers.

       3. Approaching parents

The approach to parents is an innovative element that allows raising awareness at the household level about early marriages and pregnancies, so that they can be catalysts to reinforce learning in their sons and daughters about the topics addressed.

        4. Reflection meetings

These are the spaces where lessons learned, achievements and challenges that each community is experiencing are shared collectively.

        5. Community outreach

It aims to influence community members who do not participate directly in SAT, seeking to foster an environment that provides them with basic information for making decisions related to CM SRH.

HEY is currently established in 4 departments of the country: Atlántida, Gracias a Dios, Colón and La Paz, influencing more than 1300 students in 71 Educational Centers and, through outreach to parents, we have reached about 800 parents directly influenced in the department of Atlántida. The following page can be visited as a reference to the work that has been carried out