TODAY -

Marriage is no child’s play

Shobha Shukla *



According to a report by UNICEF, India is home to the largest number of child brides in the world, accounting for more than one third of the global total of 650 million women and girls who were married as children. Of the country’s current total of 223 million child brides, 102 million were married before turning 15.

Despite a legal ban on marriage of girls below 18 years of age, 27% of the girls in India are married before their 18th birthday and 7% are married before the age of 15. Girls living in rural areas are at greater risk. Structural inequalities, local culture and tradition, lack of education, poverty and insecurity, are some of the factors that are cited for this social evil that plagues our society.

Efforts, largely spearheaded by civil society organisations, have been able to reduce India’s annual rate of child marriage to 5.5%, but a lot more remains to be done.

During tenth virtual session of the 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSHR), Dr Pramesh Chandra Bhatnagar, Senior Director (Programme) at Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), shared how peer-led approaches under the aegis of More Than Brides Alliance are helping to change socio-cultural norms to reduce child marriage and promote youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services in 40 districts of India.

Dr Bhatnagar presented the details of one such comprehensive strategy being implemented by VHAI that has succeeded in not only making 44 villages child marriage free in Khalikote block of Ganjam district in Odisha, but has also brought about meaningful socio-economic changes in the lives of adolescent girls and boys through their active participation.

A baseline survey done in 177 villages of this block found that knowledge about sexual and reproductive health in adolescents was very low at 7%. Only 10-11% girls had any knowledge about menstruation, even among those who had started menarche. Only 2-3% youth knew about any HIV/AIDS related information.

And yet, surprisingly there was a high prevalence of premarital sex, with more than 40% of the girls being in such relationships. Thus brewed a lethal potion comprising low knowledge of sexual and reproductive health and higher level of sexual activity among adolescents. The baseline survey also helped to identify barriers for adolescents' access to sexual and reproductive health services and reasons for high prevalence of child marriages.

The next step was mapping the adolescent population in the project area. This was followed by workshops to facilitate formation and capacity building of more than 500 adolescent groups comprising over 11000 adolescent boys and girls. Group members themselves chose their peer educators. These peer educators were then trained in sexual and reproductive health and life-skills education. Capacity building of the existing community groups and community leaders of the villages was also done to engage diverse groups of actors in promoting adolescent sexual health and prevention of child marriage.

Adolescent girls were motivated to develop their Charter of Demand, focussed particularly on child marriage. The women’s community groups developed a community-based monitoring tool with indicators on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and child marriage. This proved to be a very empowering tool that has helped the local community to monitor outreach activities in the villages for not only addressing youth’s sexual and reproductive health issues but also looking into other developmental projects taking place in the community.

The community groups have monthly meetings wherein the villagers come up with a village health improvement plan, which the workers are supposed to fulfil and report in the next meeting. If they have any problem the village women and adolescent girls make the required intervention, especially by visiting the local staff.

This comprehensive model has used a multi-pronged approach that goes beyond preventing child marriages and improving sexual and reproductive health of adolescents. It has also resulted in economic and social empowerment of the girls, which includes giving them vocational training and supporting them to start small initiatives.

The two major fields which the girls of these villages preferred, and where they excelled most, were computer training and mobile phone repairing. Providing the girls with bicycles proved to be a game changer as it empowered them to commute easily to school and training venues, even if they were far away from their homes.

Adolescent leadership was enhanced through capacity building, promoting their education and social skills, helping them in getting vocational training and providing them with job opportunities. Alongside, engaging other stakeholders, like village health workers, school teachers, local panchayat members and district government officials has helped in influencing the socio-cultural norms around child marriage and youth sexual and reproductive health.

These efforts have helped in averting 128 proposed child marriage cases, in which the girls, peer educators and their groups played a major role, by negotiating and advocating directly with the families involved. Also, as of date, no child marriage has taken place in 44 villages since the past two years.

The project has also helped in increasing institutional deliveries and birth registrations to 95%, uptake of contraceptives, and community monitoring of adolescent friendly sexual and reproductive health services.

70 information dissemination centres were formed for adolescents’ vocational and recreational activities as well as for dissemination of information on sexual and reproductive health, including demonstration of use of contraceptive products by government health staff. These centres are managed by the adolescent peer educators themselves.

11 government health centres have been converted into adolescent friendly health centres. They are open in the afternoon only for the youngsters, who can visit them after school hours to discuss sexual and reproductive health related issues with an auxiliary nurse, midwife or a medical doctor.

Dr Bhatnagar informed that even during the COVID-19 lockdown, regular interaction with the peer leaders and adolescent group members has continued through social media applications (like WhatsApp) and online sessions on themes such as menstrual hygiene, sexual and reproductive health and safety precautions for COVID-19.

A local phone HelpLine has also been created on which queries on COVID-19, sexual and reproductive health issues, reporting of child marriage cases are answered (7 am to 9 pm, six days a week). Some girls were trained to stitch masks and this helped them earn an extra income.

However, the pandemic has given a setback to many global efforts to put an end to child marriage. According to a recent report published in the Lancet, up to 2·5 million more girls around the world are at risk of marriage in the next 5 years because of the pandemic. An estimated 500,000 more girls are likely to be forced into child marriage and 1 million more are expected to become pregnant in 2020 itself due to its economic impact.

The situation in India is no better. According to the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development, during the pandemic lockdown period of March to June, its nodal agency Childline intervened to prevent 5584 such underage marriages across India. Many more must have gone unreported. When the lockdown eased in June and July, child marriages spiked, marking a 17% increase over the previous year.

We are getting pushed back further in our efforts to implement Agenda 2030 whose sustainable development Goals (SDGs) target 5.3 envisages to eliminate all harmful practices (such as child, early and forced marriages), and one of its indicators is the proportion of women aged 20 to 24 years who were married before age 18, which still remains considerably high with an annual increment of 12 million child brides.


* Shobha Shukla wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is the award-winning founding Managing Editor of CNS (Citizen News Service) and is a feminist, health and development justice advocate.
She is a former senior Physics faculty of Loreto Convent College and current Coordinator of Asia Pacific Media Network to end TB & tobacco and prevent NCDs (APCAT Media).
Follow her on Twitter @shobha1shukla or read her writings here www.bit.ly/ShobhaShukla)
This article was webcasted on November 23 2020.



* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • COVID-19 vaccination [Jan 16] #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 16 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Empowering women through sports
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline
  • Dzuko 'the Nagmani'
  • 3rd foundation day- National Sport University
  • Research & Publication Ethics Workshop
  • Living Legends of Manipur : Wall Calendar
  • Cong existence felt, will it survive?
  • Day light Thabal Chongba #3 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 15 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • School Fagathanshi @Leimapokpam: Gallery
  • The voice inside me :: Poem
  • Let's embrace youths self esteem
  • Gita - An antidote for life in Kali #2
  • Bedtime beauty hacks to look young
  • Menace on the roads of Imphal
  • Hill Valley bondage strengthened
  • Narcotic Drugs disposal @Lamlai #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 14 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Shachi Gurumayum honoured overseas Indian
  • Enthusiasm of LFCA's children
  • Energy Conservation Material Management
  • Commandant 12th Bn NDRF called on CM
  • Water education for sustainability
  • Postpone Public Hearing on Gender Policy
  • Students at the forefront
  • Fuelling the anger
  • COVID Vaccine arrived @ Airport : Gallery
  • Major (Dr) Laishram Jyotin, Ashoka Chakra
  • Mushroom training program at Langmeidong
  • 5 years of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana
  • Drugs ki lansu amani
  • 3rd State Level Jump Rope Championship
  • Vaccine and low count of infection
  • Human fails to learn lessons from Corona
  • My memories of Imphal from 1941 #13
  • COVID-19 Status 12 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Athing Mongbisu, Nemneikim: eMing
  • National Youth Day at Lilong Haoreibi
  • Face it all together: threat of pandemics
  • Majuli - India's only river island district
  • More of a question when, not should
  • Tungjoy re-visited
  • COVID-19 Status 11 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • COVID Vaccination Meeting with PM: Gallery
  • Fruits & Vegetables grown in North East #2
  • 18th BIG Call : Biotechnology Grant
  • Trade hate for love : Blissful 2021
  • Jump Rope (Judges & Referees) Exam
  • Connecting via Jiri
  • Dhanamanjuri University & its Identity Crisis
  • INA's Honour at the Battle of Imphal
  • COVID-19 Status 10 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Ima Keithel @ Kanglatongbi/Sekmai : Gallery
  • Aromatic Oil Extraction training at Huishu
  • Tulihal - Our sweet old local airport
  • Gita - An antidote for life in Kali #1
  • Training on Mushroom at Nagamapal
  • The call for new normal still stands
  • 187 Death Anniv- Maharaj Gambhir : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 09 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Biocontrol of Parthenium for biodiversity #2
  • A message from mother nature :: Poem
  • New year resolution & complication
  • NEP-2020 : A new Landscape in Education
  • Wildfire in Dzuko, Senapati #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 08 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Satyamala : Most Fortunate Manipuri Princess
  • Transforming economy of the kingdom of God
  • Events and celebration as career
  • How to protect your lips in winter
  • Poppy plantation & drug trafficking
  • We Continue To Strive Forward
  • Press Club Foundation Day : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 07 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Bereavement : Grief Reaction
  • Emergency Response System : Gallery
  • This world :: Poem
  • Bitter truth
  • Re-opening and rethinking border trade
  • My memories of Imphal from 1941 # 12
  • COVID-19 Status 06 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Fruits & Vegetables grown in North East #1
  • Life goes on !
  • Naga Rapper Macnivil - New Music Video
  • Awareness Prog with Women Commission
  • Farm Acts need of the hour
  • Imphal on eve of New Year 2021 #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 05 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Cold Storage @ Bishnupur Bazar : Gallery
  • Pronoia - The sociological antidote to corona
  • New Year 2021 :: Poem
  • Careers opportunity in Fashion Industry
  • Economic growth: A mirage so far
  • The law of Habit
  • Zeilad Lake in Tamenglong #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 04 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Biocontrol of Parthenium for biodiversity #1
  • Child Nutrition and their future
  • Guilt free self love - Not a sin!
  • 'Anguish over wild fire at Dziikou Valley'
  • Another message for another year
  • Lamphelpat: Victim of unplanned urbanisation
  • Politics and the War Against Drug
  • Ibudhou Marongkhong Haraoba #4 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 03 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn the Manipuri script
  • Linguistic Society of America 2020 to Manipur
  • Time for Modi-Shah duo to ink the final pact
  • Vanishing Lamphelpat calls for conservation
  • New Community Centre at Ningthoukhong
  • Disturbed Area status: An unwelcome gift
  • Paona Independence League of Burma #3
  • COVID-19 Status 02 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Presentation of Tourism in Manipur : Gallery
  • Manipur's super cops
  • The passing moment- clock of life :: Poem
  • Executive Committee of 2021-22 YMC
  • Take care of your hands this winter
  • RK Bhubonsana : Profile- Literature Awardee
  • COVID-19 Status 01 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Prayers to honourable Home Minister
  • Book Release of Cheerom Meihoubarol
  • Chronicling activity of Veterans in Manipur #2
  • Biswajit Basu as Director (Projects), NHPC
  • Imphal on eve of New Year 2021 #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 31 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Downloadable Manipuri Calendar :: 2021
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2020 #6: Gallery
  • Bidding Goodbye 2020 with a toast of Corona
  • Let us not down NK Sanajaoba's Spirit
  • Dr Konika Khuraijam- SDP Achievers Award
  • One Day Adventure Programme at Lamdan
  • On stepping into a brand New Year
  • Welcome 2021: Will it be another happy days
  • Romita Yumnam is Mrs Jhansi 2020 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 30 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Mrs Romita Yumnam crowned Mrs Jhansi 2020
  • Year's End - 2020 :: Poem
  • Bye - Bye 2020 :: Poem
  • Maya Kuki in top 25 in Mrs Universe 2020
  • 2020: Decisive for the BJP in Manipur
  • The other side of Amit Shah & Manipuri talent
  • My memories of Imphal from 1941 #11
  • COVID-19 Status 29 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • The cry of a disgruntled citizen
  • KVRSS Annual Research Awards 2020-21
  • Manage to reduce it
  • Life is a matter of choices
  • Painting Competition : Right to Information
  • New virus strain: The world is worried
  • Mayang Imphal Keithel #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 28 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • January Calendar for Year 2021 : Tools
  • Shanti Thokchom #43 : Trip to Grand Canyon
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • 2020 as the 'Year of Science'
  • Sampurna Raas Leela at Guwahati
  • Significant 2 hours delay in leaving lmphal
  • Biren will be Chief Ministerial candidate
  • Amit Shah @Imphal [Dec 27] : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 27 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Organic cultivation of tomato
  • Xmas during pandemic - a time to reflect
  • Reviews of Loktak Downstream Project
  • Amit Shah: Man behind ILP in Manipur
  • S Lonphai, Henglep Sub-div, CCpur : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 26 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Christmas greetings
  • Halls of Ivy - a lament :: Poem
  • Remembering Jesus- A lonely 'Carpenter'..
  • Beauty oils: The solution for dry winter skin
  • Of Manipur and HM visits
  • Works of Haobam Paban Kumar #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 25 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Pukhrambam Narjit : Asangbi Sanagi Medal
  • Community health work is work
  • Chronicling activity of Veterans in Manipur #1
  • What are friends for ?
  • Discontinuation of Traditional Elopement
  • Christmas Traditions :: Book
  • Lessons from COVID-19: Universal healthcare
  • Getting bronze medal in drinking
  • Manipur on the way to development
  • Towards Atmanirbhar Cities
  • NSCN (K) in talk mode
  • Still murky news from Manipur University
  • Paona Independence League of Burma #2
  • COVID-19 Status 23 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Christmas 2020: Pandemic time Choice
  • Winter woods :: Poem
  • Cultivation practices of Soybean in Manipur
  • Laishram Mema honoured at Mumbai
  • Blow out the old, ring in the new
  • My memories of Imphal from 1941 #10
  • COVID-19 Status 22 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • School Fagathanshi Mission : Gallery
  • Yongchak: The Dying Bean in Manipur
  • Economy of using concrete transmission line
  • Careers opportunity in Journalism
  • The reality: Virus is still out there
  • Are we in the right direction
  • Khamba Thoibi Jagoi at JNMDA #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 21 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • 84 yrs recovers from C0VID-19 at Ukhrul
  • Azolla : A potential biofertiliser for rice
  • Rice water for winter beauty
  • Boring 2020
  • War on Drugs campaign : Drawing attention
  • War on Drugs: The uncheck loopholes
  • Cherry Blossom at Mao #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 20 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • CM visit to Senapati: Gallery
  • As the year comes to an end :: Poem
  • This too shall pass
  • A tribute
  • No test for incoming passengers
  • ILMDG's approach to preserve Ariba Pala
  • COVID-19 Status 19 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Manipuri Filmmaker @ 51st Intl Film Fest India
  • Revisiting the life of Lamyanba NK Sanajaoba
  • 5 days skill development training program
  • Symposium on Combating COVID-19 : Day 3
  • The art of cleaning the dirt
  • Festive mood in CCpur for Xmas: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 18 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Panti Neimei : Prayer for longevity
  • New species of lac insect found in Manipur
  • Community-led approaches pivotal to HIV
  • RIST Talk 47: Photoacoustic signal strength
  • Symposium on Combating COVID-19 : Day 2
  • High profile arrest, high profile acquittal
  • Attracting tourists: post COVID
  • Paona Independence League of Burma #1
  • COVID-19 Status 17 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Irang bailey bridge @ Noney : Gallery
  • My Tryst with Preeclampsia, Again!
  • Adieu to a maverick IPS officer
  • Symposium on Combating COVID-19 : Day 1
  • Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana
  • Dry but ranks third in the country
  • The dirty game
  • Ningol Chakouba @ Thanga #2: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 16 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • My memories of Imphal from 1941 #9
  • My mother :: Poem
  • Love who you are !
  • AR organizes Weapon Display for Students
  • COVID-19 highlights virtues of villages
  • From deadlock to 'imposed solution' ?
  • Persons with Disabilities [Dec 15] : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 15 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • ADR Centres at 5 districts : Gallery
  • Works of Haobam Paban Kumar #1 : Gallery
  • State level Nupi Lan Day : Gallery
  • Langban Lam-Haiba @ Andro #2: Gallery
  • Ningol Chakouba @ Imphal #2 : Gallery
  • Sory Wahengbam - Actress Gallery :: eRang
  • COVID patient cast vote @Wangoi : Gallery
  • 'Zehara' - Manipuri Movie :: eRang Classic
  • SPONSORED ADS