International Conference: Putting children first: Identifying solutions & taking action to tackle poverty & inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa

Addis Ababa

This three-day international conference hosted by the Ethiopian Centre for Child Research, Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI), the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP), The Impact Initiative at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty, including African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP), Save the Children, UNICEF and Young Lives.

The conference aims to engage policy makers, practitioners and researchers in identifying solutions for fighting child poverty and inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa, and inspiring action towards change. The conference offers a platform for bridging divides across sectors, disciplines and policy, practice and research.


Dynamics of multi-dimensional poverty among children in Ethiopia

Tassew Woldehanna
Poverty and inequality
Working paper

This paper from the Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI) uses evidence from Young Lives to look at multidimensional poverty in Ethiopia, available here.

The authors explore the study's evidence that higher human capital endowment reduces the probability of transient poverty or chronic poverty. Moreover, children coming from a household that has experienced illness of a member were also found to have greater probability of being in the two poverty transition categories. The results of the study indicate there should be a focus on the household human capital endowment, particularly education, which is found to reduce children’s experience of overlapping deprivations and the persistence of poverty.

They call for a long-term plan to increase the education endowment of households to help improve children’s wellbeing as well as increased access to insurance schemes to curb the impact of socioeconomic shocks on children living in poverty.

Human capital growth and poverty: Evidence from Ethiopia and Peru

Poverty and inequality
Human capital
Journal Article

In this article the authors use data from Young Lives in Ethiopia and Peru to estimate the production functions of human capital from age 1 to age 15. They characterize the nature of persistence and dynamic complementarities between two components of human capital: health and cognition. They also explore the implications of different functional form assumptions for the production functions. They find that more able and higher income parents invest more, particularly at younger ages when investments have the greatest impacts. These differences in investments by parental income lead to large gaps in inequality by age 8 that persist through age 15.

Household food group expenditure patterns are associated with child anthropometry at ages 5, 8 & 12 years in Ethiopia, India, Peru & Vietnam

Mary Penny
Poverty and inequality
Journal Article

Population-level analysis of dietary influences on nutritional status is challenging in part due to limitations in dietary intake data. Household expenditure surveys, covering recent household expenditures and including key food groups, are routinely conducted in low- and middle-income countries. These data may help identify patterns of food expenditure that relate to child growth.


We investigated the relationship between household food expenditures and child growth using factor analysis.


We used data on 6993 children from Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam at ages 5, 8 and 12y from the Young Lives cohort. We compared associations between household food expenditures and child growth (height-for-age z scores, HAZ; body mass index-for-age z scores, BMI-Z) using total household food expenditures and the “household food group expenditure index” (HFGEI) extracted from household expenditures with factor analysis on the seven food groups in the child dietary diversity scale, controlling for total food expenditures, child dietary diversity, data collection round, rural/urban residence and child sex. We used the HFGEI to capture households’ allocations of their finances across food groups in the context of local food pricing, availability and preferences


The HFGEI was associated with significant increases in child HAZ in Ethiopia (0.07), India (0.14), and Vietnam (0.07) after adjusting for all control variables. Total food expenditures remained significantly associated with increases in BMI-Z for India (0.15), Peru (0.11) and Vietnam (0.06) after adjusting for study round, HFGEI, dietary diversity, rural residence, and whether the child was female. Dietary diversity was inversely associated with BMI-Z in India and Peru. Mean dietary diversity increased from age 5y to 8y and decreased from age 8y to 12y in all countries.


Household food expenditure data provide insights into household food purchasing patterns that significantly predict HAZ and BMI-Z. Including food expenditure patterns data in analyses may yield important information about child nutritional status and linear growth.


 Household food expenditures; Child growth; Weight gain; Longitudinal cohort study; Household food purchasing patterns


Download Household food group expenditure patterns are associated with child anthropometry at ages 5, 8 and 12 years in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam Debbie L. Humphries, Kirk A. Dearden, Benjamin T. Crookston, Tassew Woldehanna, Mary E. Penny, Jere R. Behrman.

Call for Papers:Putting children first: Identifying solutions & taking action to tackle poverty & inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa

Addis Ababa

This three-day international conference hosted by the Ethiopian Centre for Child Research, Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI), the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP), The Impact Initiative at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty, including African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP), Save the Children, UNICEF and Young Lives.

The conference aims to engage policy makers, practitioners and researchers in identifying solutions for fighting child poverty and inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa, and inspiring action towards change. The conference offers a platform for bridging divides across sectors, disciplines and policy, practice and research.

We would like to invite proposals on the following themes:

1) “Setting the scene: Who and where are the poor children?” This theme aims to provide insight into the plight of overlooked children, to strengthen data collection and measurement efforts to ensure that no child is overlooked in the future.
2) “Child-sensitive social protection: Making social protection work for children”. This theme aims to promote a better understanding of how social protection can be improved to help children, including links to services and the adoption of more child-oriented approaches.
3) “Ensuring access to basic services for all: Reaching the poorest and most marginalised children”. This theme aims to gain insight into how access to services can be secured for the most excluded and marginalised, including views on how to remove specific barriers and involve a social workforce and community-based mechanisms.
4) “Supporting secure transitions to adulthood”. This theme aims to explore how the ‘youth bulge’ can be considered a ‘demographic dividend’ and how young people can be supported in the transition to adulthood with regard to education, work, family and aspirations.

Proposals can consist of traditional paper presentations, but we also encourage innovative and interactive modes of engagement with research and policy in the respective themes.

Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses and insurance. A limited number of travel grants are available.

Deadline for Submission of Abstracts: 16 April 2017

The abstract must not exceed 500 words (one page) and must include: the title of the proposed submission, a presentation of the subject and mode of engagement, the central argument, and key references. A CV no longer than one page must also be submitted, including a list of recent publications. The abstract and CV must be submitted electronically at the University of Bergen, follow this link to it: 

Committee will notify accepted participants of their selection by 15 May 2017 with guidelines for the format of the final submission (research paper or other format depending on proposed engagement) to be submitted by 25 September 2017.


Photo: DFID/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Binary data, hierarchy of attributes, and multidimensional deprivation

Poverty and inequality
Journal Article

Empirical estimation of multidimensional deprivation measures has gained momentum in the last few years. Several existing measures assume that deprivation dimensions are cardinally measurable, when, in many instances, such data is not always available.

In this paper, the authors propose a class of deprivation measures when the only information available is whether an individual is deprived in an attribute or not. The framework is then extended to a setting in which the multiple dimensions are grouped as basic attributes that are of fundamental importance for an individual’s quality of life and non-basic attributes which are at a much lower level of importance. Empirical illustrations of the proposed measures are provided based on the estimation of multidimensional deprivation among children in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam.



Binary data, Children, Deprivation, Hierarchy, Multiple dimensions, Poverty

Download the journal article Binary data, hierarchy of attributes, and multidimensional deprivation,

Towards a Better Future? Hopes and Fears from Young Lives

Nikki van der Gaag
Poverty and inequality
Gender, adolescence & youth
Book / chapter

Young Lives has been following 12,000 children in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam since 2002. This is the third book about the lives of 24 of those children. We have watched them as they started primary and then secondary school, and we have seen many of them grow into young adults. They have shared their hopes and their fears with us, their ideas about themselves, their families and their communities.

Growing up has meant more independence – and more responsibility. There is pressure to conform to wider social norms and expectations. Gender has become more significant as the children move into adolescence and beyond, and decisions about school, work, marriage and fertility are made within families and communities.

We believe that the views and experiences of the children in our study are key to understanding childhood poverty and in helping to identify effective policies and practices to tackle it. As the mother of Teje, who is 13 and from Ethiopia, said: “I want development for all human beings and I want everyone to have a comfortable life. I want this research to contribute to that.”

Children’s Work in Family and Community Contexts

Gina Crivello
Poverty and inequality
Children's work and time-use
Working paper

National and international policies view children’s work as a child protection issue and a threat to social and economic development. Whether working harms or supports children’s well-being is hotly debated. In Ethiopia, most boys and girls work, whether paid or unpaid. Rarely are children’s own accounts of their work considered by policymakers. This paper reports on findings from a qualitative study of children’s working lives in three Ethiopian communities.  It draws on evidence given by children and asks what motivates them to work; what are the risks, harms and benefits that children associate with different types of work; and what impact working has on their social relations and identities.

Although the need for income goes a long way towards explaining why many children in Ethiopia work, the reasons are more complex and cannot be reduced to poverty alone.

  • Boys and girls begin working from around the age of 5; the quantity and complexity of their work increase with age. Gender differences become more marked as children get older, particularly in adolescence.
  • Most work that children do entails some risks as well as benefits, and good and bad features can exist side by side in the same work. For example, many children use their earnings to cover the costs of schooling, yet they find it a major challenge to combine the demands of school with work inside and outside the household.
  • Children rely on their social networks to get started in work, to change jobs and migrate for work, and to deal with problems they may encounter in their work.

These findings show that policies need to take into account the different risks faced by boys and girls at different ages and the specific support they need. Attempts to protect children should not lose sight of the role of work in their learning, development, aspirations and relationships. Social protection policies can help vulnerable children by insuring households against death, illness and other shocks. Flexible learning arrangements can enable working children to continue with their schooling.

Children of the Millennium: Growing Up with the MDGs

Caroline Knowles
Poverty and inequality
Children's perspectives
Policy paper

At the turn of the century, huge optimism surrounded the global commitment to the MDGs. Many of the goals related to children and childhood, including ending poverty and hunger, expanding enrolment in primary education, and improving access to clean water and sanitation. If we can get things right at the start of a child’s life, the world agreed, we have a chance to stop poverty and inequality being passed down through the generations.

During 2015, Young Lives have been taking stock of the achievements and lessons learned since the adoption of the MDGs, in the run-up to the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

Using data gathered from 12,000 children and their families over the timeframe of the MDGs, and in children’s own words where possible, this report from Young Lives looks beyond the ‘big data’ to see what has changed in the reality of children’s lives in the context of the shifts in national policy, priorities and outcomes related to the MDGs.

There have been some important advances, with a reduction in childhood poverty and rise in essential services across many developing countries. However, average numbers cannot tell the whole story; the figures hide discrepancies between countries, as well as between children within countries, and gaps in quality and inclusiveness.

What needs to be done to keep child marriages trending down

This blog originally appeared in The Conversation  on 23 June 2015

The broader African and international lobby against child marriage and other harmful traditional practices has grown tremendously in recent years. Its political clout is being felt right down to the grassroots level with positive outcomes.

These campaigns are being stepped up. Last week, the African Union launched a campaign to end child marriage in Africa. This produced a common position on ending child marriage.

Last week also saw the annual Day of the African Child (June 16). Joined-up thinking and campaigning led to this year’s theme of accelerating collective efforts to end Child Marriage in Africa.

To galvanise all this support and translate commitments to action, the Ethiopian government has planned a National Girl’s Summit on June 25. This follows a similar summit in London last year, where the country committed to ending female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage by 2025.

Early marriages declining in Ethiopia

The good news is that early marriage is on the decline in Ethiopia. There are multiple reasons for this, though policy change and implementation of programmes have no doubt played a large part.

Over the past decade, there have been a number of government advocacy campaigns and projects supported by donors and NGOs. The Revised Family Proclamation of 2000 Article 7 prohibited marriage under the age of 18. By 2008, six of the nine federal states had enacted their respective laws which had begun to take effect in the regions from 2003. Two regions have still to amend their laws. Enforcement has tended to involve fines and, occasionally, imprisonment.

But the decline is also due to the rapidly changing social and economic environment in Ethiopia. With greater access to education, radio, satellite TV and mobile phones – as well as employment and migration of youth – there are opportunities for them to learn about the world and question prevailing cultural assumptions.

There has also been an intergenerational shift in attitudes and expectations. In one of our research interviews, a mother from Leki in Oromia describes the tension this has caused between generations:

Our parents used to give us to somebody we do not know and collect their bride wealth … they cover our head with a shawl and put us on horseback to ride us to groom’s house … it was like sending us into a prison … Now, if I marry off my daughter [against] her interest, she will refuse and oblige me to pay back any bride wealth I take.

Reflecting on what influenced them in deciding about the marriage of their children and grandchildren, parents and grandparents commonly refer to their own past difficulties arising from early marriage.

Early marriage may be viewed as a rational option by parents under certain circumstances, including when girls’ education is limited. Reuters/Radu Sigheti  

Rationales for child marriage

The reality is that, culture and tradition aside, poverty is the basic underlying rationale for early marriage. In certain contexts, early marriage may be viewed as a rational option by parents and sometimes girls.

Factors include girls having few other opportunities. Their education is limited and chances of training or employment restricted.

Marriage payments can provide support for parents. Bride wealth payments, which are customary in southern Ethiopia, can be an important source of income for girls’ families. It enables them to meet various needs and marry off their sons.

Promising their children in marriage while still young was a strategy in Amhara to form family alliances and ensure that the young couple were endowed with property to start a new household.

By marrying their daughters early, parents feel they are reducing the risk of them engaging in pre-marital sex. This redues the risk of exposing them to sexually transmitted diseases – notably HIV/AIDS – and the risk of pregnancy, unsafe abortion, or disgrace and social stigmatisation if they have a child while unmarried.

Young women who have a child out of wedlock often won’t get support from the father and may be repudiated by their parents. Finding work for young women is hard enough when they are on their own. Creche and preschool facilities are often nonexistent or unaffordable, and employers will often not accept a young woman with a child.

In a context of low life expectancy, parents are keen to ensure their daughters find respectable husbands while they are alive, and by marrying early have enough children that survive. In the absence of alternative social security, parents hope to have grandchildren to look after them in old age.

Despite the winds of change, not all parents – or indeed girls or the boys who wish to marry them – are convinced that these practices are wrong.

Changing hearts and minds

In terms of implementing the law, the birth registration system being put in place is important. But in the short term, the exact age of girls is difficult to certify and some parents or girls have claimed they are older so they can marry without risking prosecution.

The law can also have unintended adverse consequences. Some girls may also defy the law, arguing that it is their right to choose to marry early – making it difficult to prosecute them.

If legal sanctions are imposed without a genuine change of heart and people being convinced of the harm, the practices can go underground.

Much of the current campaigns’ focus is rightly on girls, particularly through schools and the media. Empowerment of the girls is clearly key to bringing about change.

Targeting men and religious leaders

These practices are closely linked to the rest of girls’ lives and opportunities. Breaking the cycle of poverty by providing girls with more chances for education, training and employment may well be more important than simply seeking to convince them to avoid harmful practices.

Ethiopian church leaders have a role to play in condemning early child marriages. Reuters/Tiksa Negeri

It is also important to involve men and boys, as fathers, future husbands and leaders. Changing views about girls’ life-chances, education and employment can lead to greater transformations in ideas about desirable marriage partners and the benefits of delaying marriage to increase opportunities.

There is also evidence that convincing customary and religious leaders to denounce the practices and avoid them for their own daughters has an important role in changing trends.

The forthcoming summit is without doubt a step in the right direction. Combined efforts from all stakeholders including government structures and services, international and civil society organisations is crucial. But in the final analysis, the need for change has to be believed in and implemented within communities by the girls, young women and men, and their parents. The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. The images of children in this blog were chosen by The Conversation editors and are not of children involved in Young Lives research. Read the original article.

Click here for our slidehare presentation given at the Ethiopia Girl Summit