In states like Jharkhand, as many as $60%$ of young girls are married too soon.

Think of all the wonderful things a young girl hopes to be when she grows up. All of her dreams for the future are crushed by a society that is eager and willing to endanger her health and identity. 

Millions of young girls are forced into early marriage as soon as or before they even reach puberty. This is followed by the expectation of childbirth, well before their bodies are ready to undergo such an ordeal. More so, these young girls are at high risk for domestic violence and sexual abuse. Add to that the burden of domestic work and labour that is well beyond their physical capabilities.

What drives the community to treat one-half of its children with such hostility?

Over a decade ago, we decided to take action and change the status quo. We encourage communities to educate the girl child, as better access to education, health services and economic opportunities would enable the same girls to thrive.

Programmes.

Our work on the ground.

An early marriage denies a girl access to education, health and other opportunities. It is a violation of human rights and violence against young women, the consequences of which, follows them well into adulthood.

Breakthrough’s work and consequent results show that many of these bleak statistics can be overcome when a girl marries after the age of 18. Not only does she have better access to educational and economic opportunities and increased sexual and reproductive rights, her decision-making powers also improve, giving her the ability to negotiate a gender-equitable position within her own family and potentially within her marital home as well.

In Jharkhand and Bihar, in the districts of Gaya, Ranchi and Hazaribagh, Breakthrough has reached out to as many as 132 million people to come closer to its goal of ending early marriage.

The programme reaches out to adolescents, through a school based curriculum that helps boys and girls understand and respect one another. It provides them with a shared, safe space where gender norms can be challenged and redefined. The programme also engages with teachers, Panchayat members, Frontline health workers and community members to ensure that the adolescent girl receives all the support she needs to lead a life in which she is free to make her own choices.

Breakthrough recognizes that the problem can only be countered if cultural norms which perpetuate early marriage for girls are challenged. The goal is not just for girls to get married post 18 years of age, rather for them to enjoy the right to pursue their own dreams and aspirations.

The pushback against early marriage:

  • In the areas of intervention, Breakthrough has seen a rise in the average age of marriage by 1.77 years.
  • A 30% rise in people agreeing that 18 is the right age for a girl to marry.
  • 20% reduction in the number of people saying that finding a suitable match was their main responsibility towards their girls.
  • 50% increase in number of people who believe a girl should complete college.
  • 33% rise in people who believe that household chores should be shared by both boys and girls.
  • 25% rise in households reporting that financial responsibilities are shared by women.

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