Child Research & Practice Forum (CRPF) monthly seminar

The CRPF meets each month to share recent research findings, policy recommendations and discuss best practices in child, girls and adolescents-focussed programmes. This month's seminar will be presented by Young Lives.

The following two papers will be presented:

“Improving the Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) of Young People in Ethiopia: Two decades of evidence from the Young Lives study” By Alula Pankhurst (PhD), Young Lives Ethiopia Country Director.

Young Lives Under Pressure: Protecting and Promoting Young People’s Mental Health at a Time of Global Crises” By Kath Ford, Young Lives Senior Policy Advisor.

Child Research & Practice Forum (CRPF) monthly seminar

The Impact of COVID-19 in Ethiopia

Policy paper

The Policy brief synthesises evidence from seven leading studies, providing an overview of COVID-19 impacts on the Ethiopian population overall, but also zooming in to specific regions, sectors, and population groups. Many of the studies are longitudinal in nature, and thus offer a perspective on the evolving COVID-19 impacts over time. The highlighted results provide a view on how COVID-19 continues to unfold throughout different sections of Ethiopian society. Each study reveals policy gaps and discusses where policy areas could be strengthened to mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19.

From Childhood, through Adolescence to Adulthood in Ethiopia.

Since 2001, Young Lives has followed the lives of 3,000 children growing up in different contexts in Ethiopia, involving a younger cohort born in 2001-2 and an older cohort born in 1994-5. The younger cohort of children are now moving from adolescence into adulthood, while the older cohort have already become young adults. Young Lives has interviewed the children, their caregivers and community respondents over five rounds of surveys and four qualitative waves in 20 sites in five different regions.

So, what have we learnt about the lives of children over the years? And how can this information be useful for improving policies and programmes in Ethiopia? What are the differences for girls and boys, for children from urban and rural areas, and how have different household circumstances affected their life chances? When we return to interview them during this new fifth wave of qualitative research in mid- 2019, what will have changed? Where are they heading to now and what are their hopes and aspirations for the future?

The new fieldwork, supported by UNICEF, will be implemented in different urban and rural locations of Ethiopia and will compare the younger group who are still in late adolescence with the older group who are already adults. Findings will be able to illustrate different pathways for boys and girls from contrasting family backgrounds living in various settings. This will provide key insights into a range of important topics including transitions from school to work, migration, household formation, marriage and parenting and the different challenges children and youth face in contexts of food insecurity.

The new findings will inform Government policies on children and youth, feed into the evaluation of the current Growth and Transformation Plan and provide inputs into preparations for the next plan. The research will also inform UNICEF Ethiopia’s new Country Programme and other development partners’ plans to support the Government to prioritise children’s and youth issues in the journey to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Ethiopia’s efforts to attain lower middle-income status.

This new study will also allow Young Lives to further analyse the key findings from across 15 years of research to draw out key lessons into a series of short policy briefs.

The first brief will provide an overview across different areas of children’s lives. UNICEF has demonstrated that child poverty is multi-dimensional and that monetary indicators fail to convey the true depth of deprivations. The Young Lives study confirms this, and our findings address issues in various domains including poverty dynamics, nutrition, health and cognitive development, education and learning, wellbeing and child protection. This brief will include the 12 key messages highlighted in the Young Lives Ethiopia Country Report.

We then focus on four specific topics of policy concern through the development of additional policy briefs. First, we look at child marriage. Though the rate of child marriage is fortunately on the decrease in Ethiopia, it remains a major issue as the absolute number of girls affected is increasing, and little is known about what happens to girls who marry early or their offspring. We will synthesise findings from Young Lives about how early marriage and parenthood affects their lives, especially their education and work opportunities, their relations with their spouse and family and their scope for decision-making, notably about having children.

Second, violence is an area where children need further protection. Children of different ages, especially girls, face a range of risks including physical, emotional and sexual violence in their homes and communities and at school. We investigate where and why this happens, how children and adults respond, the services available and how they can be improved.

Third, we analyse early childhood care and education. How were children treated in early life and what effect has this had on their later development and chances? Young Lives reviewed current pre-school provision in Ethiopia and will use this to compare it with the experiences of the children we have been following. The new fieldwork will investigate how the Young Lives children, who are now adults, parent their own children; we will therefore be able to compare early education and care over three generations: the parents of the Young Lives children, the children who have become parents themselves and their own children.

Finally, we analyse the phase of adolescence and the struggles girls and boys face at this crucial age of transition as they seek to become independent, earn a living and form their own households and families.

The results of this research will be disseminated through briefs presented and distributed at the monthly seminar series of the Child Research and Practice Forum at the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth and at events on key international days relating to children and youth.

For wider coverage the briefs will be posted on the Young Lives and UNICEF websites, translated into Amharic to better reach a national audience and will be promoted through social media. The preliminary results of the new field research and the final versions of the briefs will be presented at a validation workshop at the end of 2019 and will provide important data for further analysis leading to insights useful for policy engagement in 2020, when Young Lives hopes to carry out a sixth survey.

This study is being undertaken by Oxford University and the Young Lives Project under the Policy Study Institute of Ethiopia. Members of the Reference Group include MoWCY, MoLSA, MOE, Save the Children, Child Justice Project, Consortium of Christian Relief & Development Associations and Addis Ababa University.

UNICEF will support financially the development of five different policy briefs using existing Young Lives’ data and the undertaking of the new qualitative wave of the Young Lives study.


New Ethiopian Centre for Child Research launched

Submitted by remote on Mon, 05/29/2017 - 15:17

Young Lives partner, The Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI) has established the Ethiopian Centre for Child Research (ECCR) in partnership with UNICEF Ethiopia and Addis Ababa University. The ECCR is inspired by the collaborative work of EDRI and Young Lives in Ethiopia as well as the multi-agency Child Research and Practice Forum (CRPF).

Undermining Learning: Multi-Country Longitudinal Evidence on Corporal Punishment in Schools

Child protection
Policy paper

Globally the use of corporal punishment in schools is increasingly prohibited in law, yet in many countries its use continues, even where outlawed. Proponents argue that it is an effective and non-harmful means of instilling discipline, respect and obedience in children, while others point to a series of detrimental effects, including physical harm, poor academic performance, low class participation, school dropout and declining psychosocial well-being. Using longitudinal data from Young Lives, this Brief summarises research examining whether corporal punishment in schools is associated with lasting effects on children’s cognitive development.The brief is part of the UNICEF Multi-Country Study on the Drivers of Violence Affecting Children.

We find that corporal punishment in schools is highly prevalent, despite legal prohibition, with younger children, boys and poor children at greater risk. Violence in schools, including physical and verbal abuse by teachers and peers, is the foremost reason children aged 8 give for disliking school. Corporal punishment experienced at age 8 is negatively associated with maths scores at age 12 in India, Peru and Viet Nam. The associated negative effect of corporal punishment on maths scores at age 12 is equivalent to the child’s caregiver having between three and six years less education. Legislation, teacher training, addressing gender and social norms and greater international and national prioritisation of tackling violence affecting children, all play a part in building safe, supportive and enabling environments so that every child can flourish.

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.

Nutrition, Stunting and Catch-up Growth

Nutrition, health and well-being
Stunting and catch-up growth
Policy paper

Recognition of the importance of good nutrition in early childhood has led to an increased acceptance of the "first 1000 days" (from conception through the second year of life) as a critical window of opportunity for ensuring children have good health throughout life, with associated benefits in other areas. There are powerful arguments to say that investments made during this early period are both a foundation for better long-term development and the most efficient point of intervention to lessen the impacts of childhood poverty.

Early under-nutrition is reflected in children's physical growth trajectories, with early disadvantage stunting children's development from a very young age. However research from cohort studies is increasingly identifying that children's growth trajectories are not fully fixed in infancy. Some children are able to recover from early stunting, while others fall behind after an initial period of normal growth. Understanding what determines changes in children's post-infancy growth gives insights into the patterns of development (and interventions) which may foster more sustained healthy growth. This brief summarises key evidence to date from a series of research studies using Young Lives data to analyse children's growth, and concludes by drawing out implications for policy.

Children's Work and Labour in East Africa

Children's work and time-use
Book / chapter

This book brings together contributions by academics and practitioners interested in strengthening the role of research in improving policies relatied to children and poverty in Africa. It presents evidence from working children's lives and perspectives in cases from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan, spanning a variety of types of children's work, from agriculture to mining to petty trade, paid and unpaid work, inside and outside household contexts. Examples speak to children's experiences of work to discern best practices that might be applied more broadly, including meaningful ways for involving children in policy processes. The book shows how children's lives have changed with increases in paid and domestic work in addition to the demands of schooling. It will appeal to both academics and practitioners interested in promoting the well-being of working children and ensuring that policies relating to children are firmly based on evidence.


Introduction: Children's Work and Current Debates   Michael Bourdillon, Gina Crivello and Alula Pankhurst

Reframing Children's Contributions to Household Livelihoods in Ethiopia through a Political-Economy Perspective   Tatek Abebe

Work in Children Lives in Ethiopia: Examples from Young Lives Communities   Alula Pankhurst, Gina Crivello and Agazi Tiumelissan

Child Labour in Khartoum: Factors and Repercussions   Ibtisam Satti Ibrahim

Children Sustaining Families: Insights into the Lives of Working Children in Addis Ababa   Emebet Mulugeta

Children Combining School and Work in Ethiopian Communities   Yisak Tafere and Alula Pankhurst

Parents' and Children's Perspectives on Child Work and Schooling   Gladwell Wambiri

Children's Perspectives on their Working Lives and on Public Action against Child Labour in Burkina Faso   Josephine Wouango

The Role of Child Participation in Influencing Policies to Protect Children from Harmful Work: a Kenyan Case   Magdalene Wanza Muoki

Concluding Reflections   Michael Bourdillon, Gina Crivello and Alula Pankhurst

Appendix: Potential Benefits and Harm in Children's Work


Alula Pankhurst, Michael Bourdillon and Gina Crivello (eds) (2015) Children's Work and Labour in East Africa: Social Context and Implications for Policy, Addis Ababa: Organisation for Social Sicence Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA), PO Box 31971, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Web:

Beyond the Girl Summit: creating a legacy of health, education and empowerment

Life events

 As someone who spends most of my time involved in the nitty-gritty of research, from fieldwork through data analysis to publishing papers and producing policy briefs for consultation with government and other stakeholders, coming to London to attend the Girl Summit was an extraordinary experience. The energy and excitement was palpable and the general enthusiasm especially from vocal young women was infectious.

Brave girls at the forefront

The Girl Summit on 22 July was an inspiring event held in a south London school with girls at the forefront. Four brave young campaigning women made moving speeches: Farwa who got her aunt to persuade her parents in Bangladesh to stop her early marriage, Alimatu who spoke out about coming to terms with the FGM she underwent in Sierra Leone, Malala who took on the Taliban in Pakistan and was standing up for the girls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria, and 16 year old Hanah, UNICEF ambassador for Ethiopia, whose plea at the end of the summit for everyone to get involved got a standing ovation.

Galvanising support

The Summit was important for obtaining commitments for action from more than 20 countries, including by ten African ministers and the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister, and from major national and international donors. The Charter was signed by leading organisations (including Young Lives Ethiopia) and, though the event was mainly preaching to the converted, it reached out worldwide through social media.

Mindful of twin sensitive issues

Tackling culturally sensitive issues head on is complex and sensible suggestions were made, notably by women from countries where the practices are common, about the need to avoid blaming or ostracising the victims and the risk of sparking a backlash, and about avoiding fuelling Islamophobia and muddying the waters with references to terrorism, both mentioned by British women from immigrant communities.

Tougher measures giving teeth to laws

The British government unveiled plans for tougher sanctions and prosecution of people involved in the practices, making parents in the UK liable if they marry off or circumcise their daughters, and imposing legal sanctions against health professionals who fail to report FGM. However, some concerns have been expressed, for instance by the Royal College of General Practitioners, that this may discourage women who have been circumcised from seeing a doctor (The Guardian, 26 July 2014).

‘The numbers don’t lie’

At a pre-summit meeting organised by DFID about research on these issues, one participant echoed the general sentiment that the statistics were compelling and ‘the numbers don’t lie’. Yet others pointed out that we do not have reliable figures. Perhaps more worrying is that establishing the facts about such sensitive topics may be difficult if not impossible when people are worried about acknowledging involvement in illegal practices, and where ‘checking’ about FGM would raise ethical issues. The alarming projections unveiled by UNICEF at the Summit may be based on shaky foundations and also do not factor in the likelihood that the practices are likely to decline dramatically, even without all the recent media attention, government commitments and funding.

Unintended adverse consequences: field evidence

Evidence from Young Lives in Ethiopia suggests that the imposition and strict enforcement of legislation banning child marriage and FGM/C may lead to the practices going underground or being circumvented by those who are not convinced that they are harmful. Unless parents and girls believe that FGM is harmful and are protected from adverse risks, they may hold the ceremonies at night or in the bush to avoid prosecution, or may circumcise girls earlier than is customary or pretend the ceremony is for a male circumcision to avoid detection. Likewise, they may pretend girls are older to marry them before the legal age of 18, particularly since birth registration is only just starting to be implemented in Ethiopia. We came across cases of girls arguing that it was their right to decide to be married and/or circumcised, and who had organised their own ceremonies despite parents’ and teachers’ opposition. Moreover, imposing a legal age of marriage of 18 (when it is 16 in the UK) may put adolescent girls who are sexually active at risk.

Older adolescent girls at risk

The recent expansion of education, particularly for girls, has brought new risks with it. The current shortage of secondary schools means more girls have to travel further from their communities for school, and some parents fear that their daughters may be abducted and raped. With restricted access to contraceptives for teenagers, consensual sex before marriage may expose them to risks from STDs, notably HIV/AIDS. Parents fear that their daughters may become pregnant and have unsafe abortions, or that they risk being rejected by their boyfriend and bring shame on the family if they decide to have a child before marriage. Girls themselves also worry that they are at risk of abduction or rape, and that they cannot access contraception or safe abortion. They fear rejection and ostracism if they have a child outside marriage, as well as face the daunting challenge of bringing up a child singlehandedly, often having to migrate away from their communities to seek work while caring for an infant without support (usually without any childcare facilities).

Linking to poverty reduction and women’s empowerment

The focus of the Girl Summit 2014 on child marriage and FGM has galvanised political will and public attention around these issues in a way that was unimaginable a decade ago. Maria Eitel, the CEO of the Nike Foundation recalled what a ‘hard sell’ focusing on adolescent girls had been in starting up what became the Girl Hub. The energies generated by the Summit should enable better social protection systems to be established for girls at risk and already affected, and hopefully also for those likely to suffer from the unintended adverse consequences of legislation. If this first Girl Summit becomes a springboard to broaden the agenda to adolescent reproductive health and improving girls’ access to affordable, quality and relevant education and pathways to training and employment, so much the better. If this spotlight on adolescent girls is just a beginning and leads to more attention on the fundamental underlying issues of intergenerational transmission of poverty, young women’s empowerment and the broader international poverty reduction agenda, it will have a lasting legacy. Otherwise, these inspiring energies and commitments may fizzle out as other concerns take the limelight or the massive investments committed may be tackling issues that are in any case on the wane and are symptoms of much more deep-rooted gender and poverty issues.  

Girl Summit 2014 – the Ethiopian perspective

View the video produced by the Ethiopian Embassy in London with footage from the Summit and in-depth interviews with HE Demeke Mekonnen (Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia) and HE Zenebu Tadesse (Minister of Women, Children and Youth Affairs) (YouTube video 20 mins in Amharic)

Strengthening the Connections between Research, Policy and Practice in Ethiopia

Orphans and vulnerable children
Impact case study

The importance of working closely with key policymakers and practitioners to ensure that research is used to inform policy and action for reducing child poverty is widely understood. Yet the challenges experienced by those tasked with policy engagement are no better illustrated than in Ethiopia.

For Young Lives in Ethiopia to strengthen the connections between research, policy and practice, the team needed to identify an approach which could bring together different actors in a way which was participatory, inclusive and acknowledged the complex, multi-directional nature of the policy engagement process.

Recognising the importance of engaging with key decision-makers at an early stage, Young Lives held two consultation exercises to solicit the advice of government and non-government stakeholders in preparation for a sub-study on orphans and other vulnerable children, and their care and support.* Outcomes included the facilitation of policy discussion and collaboration between groups who had never worked together before, and led to the launch of the Child Research and Practice Forum (CRPF) – a place for researchers, policymakers and practitioners to meet regularly and talk about new research.

Building the capacity of others and encouraging policy debates on issues concerning child poverty are core activities for Young Lives policy work and the formation of the CRPF represents both of these in action. Young Lives has played an active role in strengthening the relationships between research, policy and practice in Ethiopia and has enjoyed some rapid success through the CRPF.

The CRPF has enabled Young Lives to:

  • share its findings
  • stimulate dialogue
  • help the study to get closer to stakeholders
  • promote joint action around policy-relevant issues.

The wide variety of topics discussed to date demonstrate how the Forum has become owned by a wider group. Young Lives is aware that the Forum will need support and nurturing and careful consideration of ways of ensuring it is sustainable and not dominated by any one interest group. Young Lives is a small piece within a large jigsaw. There is a lot to be gained from linking up with other stakeholders and the Forum acts as a platform for Young Lives ideas and interests, and, more importantly, to raise issues of children and poverty with a wider audience.

Further reading

Laura Camfield, Rozana Himaz and Helen Murray (2009) The Impact of Parental Death on Child Outcomes: Evidence from Ethiopia, Young Lives Policy Brief 7.

Gina Cirvello and Helen Murray (2012) Why Strengthening the Linkages between Research and Practice is Important: Learning from Young Lives, Young Lives Policy Brief 19.


* The sub-study on orphans and vulnerable children in Ethiopia was funded by the Oak Foundation. A core part of this work was to look at how research can be better used in development policy and practice.