When a girl is forced into early marriage, she is denied access to education, healthcare and economic opportunities. This breeds gender-based violence and is a violation of human rights, the consequences of which follow these young women all their lives.
In our work, we have seen how many of the difficulties that a young bride is faced with might be overcome if she marries after the age of 18. Along with access to education and better job prospects, her awareness about her sexual and reproductive rights and decision-making skills are also improved. She is then in a better position to negotiate a healthier, more gender-equitable place in her family.
Reaching out to over 132 million people in districts of Gaya, Ranchi and Hazaribagh in Bihar and Jharkhand, we have made significant progress towards our goal of ending the practice of early marriage. We understand that a shift in mindset and cultural norms is what will trigger tangible change.
Our programmes reach out to adolescents, both male and female with a school-based curriculum designed to inculcate values of respect, understanding and empathy between them. As they become one team – they create a safe space, and together challenge and break down gender norms that have plagued our society for so long. The programme also engages with other stakeholders like teachers, frontline workers and Panchayat members to ensure that young girls get all the support they require to achieve self-autonomy and are empowered to make their own choices for the future.
The fight goes on. In the areas of intervention, we have witnessed –
- A rise in the average age of marriage by 1.77 years
- 30% rise in the number of people agreeing that 18 is the right age for a girl to marry
- 20% reduction in the number of people who believe that finding a suitable match is their main responsibility towards their daughters
- 50% increase in the number of people who advocate college education for girls
- 33% rise in the number of people who support division of household chores between boys and girls
- 25% rise in households reporting that financial responsibilities are now shared by women as well