A Fight Against Child Marriage

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By ChildFund India
Posted on 9/1/2015

 

inaugural event of the campaign

In India, the country with the most child brides worldwide, an estimated 47 percent of girls are married before age 18, putting their physical, emotional and mental health at risk. Although it is illegal in India for girls under 18 and boys under 21 to marry, the tradition remains entrenched.

For a long time now, ChildFund has been working in partnership with three partner organizations in the state of Madhya Pradesh, which has one of the highest rates of child marriage in India, to sensitize tribal communities and help children gain the self-respect, self-esteem and confidence they need to help them stand against early marriage.

Village monitoring committees have been formed, made up of community elders and youth club members. These committees act as watchdogs in the community to prevent early marriages. And to intensify the ongoing movement, ChildFund India recently launched Anmol Jeevan, an awareness campaign that went on for 100 days in 75 villages of the project area. The campaign drew together support from the community, especially the village leaders and parents.

At the inaugural event of the campaign, youth members who had been active in the fight against child marriage were recognized before local government officials and thousands of community members who were there to support the cause.

One of the youth members recognized at the event was 17-year-old Sonam, who received an award for addressing the issue of early marriage actively and also for standing up against her own marriage. “ChildFund has changed my life — it came as a ray of hope and has given me courage to dream about my future,” she said while accepting the award.

inaugural event of the campaign

When her parents insisted that she get married, she protested, and together with her youth club members who had taken an oath to become role models for others by not becoming the victims of early marriage, she spoke with her parents. Sonam shared that she did not want to get married before reaching the legal age of marriage and also wanted to study longer to achieve her dreams. After a lot of persuasion, Sonam’s parents were convinced. With their support, she is now preparing for exams, with plans to become an engineer and help her village.

Sonam has been involved with ChildFund India since the beginning of the project, for more than six years.  She has actively participated in several of ChildFund’s programs, inlcuding awareness camps and meetings on early marriage. She also encourages mothers to get their children immunized and provide nutritious food. She also has been actively promoting literacy in her village by doing door-to-door counseling, visiting schools and getting children of her village enrolled in the local schools. With Sonam’s and her youth club members’ persistent efforts, more than 62 community members have learned to read — out of the 142 illiterate village members they had identified.  

“If convinced properly,” says Sonam, “parents will support their daughters’ wishes to study instead of getting them married at an early age.”

And when they do, those girls will be able to make enormous contributions within their own communities — just as Sonam has.