Long Read

Empowering girls to end child marriage

“People in our village think of girls as burden” says Sriti Kumari, 15 years old, from Deoghar, Jharkand, India. In Deoghar, the rate of child marriage is 52,7%. Our partner NEEDS is trying to Stop child marriage through the empowerment of adolescent girls, like Sriti. So that they can keep themselves in the schools, improving on their life skills, to say ‘no’ and negotiate with the parents and the society.

A healthy and happy life

“When NEEDS came to our village two years back, they faced lot of opposition from the elders of the village,” remembers Sriti. “According to them there was no need for girls to go to school after class 8 or to attend training sessions. Dowry is an important reason why parents want to marry off their girls as soon as possible. For them girls are meant to get married off to take care of their in-laws. Thus instead of studying they should rather focus on learning cooking, washing utensils and other household chores.”

“Right to survival, right to development, right to protection, right to participation. We were not aware of such basic rights earlier,” explains Sriti. “Not only us but our parents and the villagers were also informed about these rights. Now we have immense self-confidence to lead a healthy and happy life.”

“Why can’t parents tell their boys to behave properly with girls?”

Whenever there is sexual violence against a girl, people from the village always hold the girl responsible and not the perpetrator. Character assassination of the girl is done by the ignorant villagers.

Parents tell their girls to behave appropriately once they step outside home. Girls are instructed to conduct themselves properly so that their parents don’t have to hang their head in shame.

Even girls can have dreams

“After the arrival of the trainers from NEEDS, they informed us about our rights and helped us to realize that even girls can have dreams.”

“Before marriage it is our parents who take care of our expenses and after marriage it is the husbands. But if we study and not get married early, we can work and take care of our own expenses. We won’t have to get permission from our parents or husbands before buying anything for ourselves. We won’t have to ask or beg anymore for money. We can be completely independent.”

“No one talks about my marriage anymore. My ultimate aim is to empower girls of remote villages who haven’t got much exposure in life and who have always lived under the shadows of their parents or husbands.”

Results

Needs is currently working with 5000 adolescents in one sub-district;

  •  2300 girls that had to leave school were able to come back to school.
  • Over 340 girls stayed at school because of counselling support.
  • In the last 18 months, 45 child marriages have been stopped on the day of marriage.

 

Violation of children’s rights

Child marriage is a gross violation of children’s rights to health, protection, and bodily integrity, and an impediment to sustainable development. It often leads to negative health impacts, truncated education, lack of access to income generation opportunities, and increased risk of intimate partner violence.

Although child marriage affects both boys and girls, girls and women suffer disproportionately from its consequences. 15 million girls are married each year. In the developing world, one in three girls is married before reaching 18 years of age and one in nine girls before 15.

Click here to learn more about our work to end child marriage.

Read how we decreased maternal and child mortality rates in Eastern India.

Learn more about the international summit on the ending of child marriages in Senegal, 24 countries from West and Central Africa want to ban child marriage.

Start the conversation

Share this article

Long Reads

A long read is a full-length article covering one of our current topics.

More ‘long reads’ Read next long read