In many rural areas of Rajasthan, the birth of a daughter is considered bad luck, she is an economic hardship, a burden for her family. To help reduce the family’s economic responsibilities, she is married off young, saving money on both her education and dowry.
Child marriage is harmful for both boys and girls, but the practice affects girls with much more intensity. Apart from restricted educational opportunities, psychological growth and personal development, girls are compelled into early childbirth, suffer from malnutrition, experience serious birth complications and are given extensive family responsibilities at an unfairly young age. These girls are also more likely to be subjected to domestic violence and abuse, increased economic dependence, and general inequality in the home, due to underdeveloped negotiating skills at their young age.
VIKALP’S Work on Child Marriage
Vikalp works to combat the effects of child marriage in two key ways; firstly by aiming to prevent child marriages wherever possible, and just as importantly by assisting girls who have been married as children to lead full, empowered lives. Evidence shows that education is an effective strategy in preventing child marriages. Vikalp works with girls, their families, and other stakeholders like schools, governments and marriage service providers to broaden community awareness about the negative effects of child marriages. Vikalp has established local volunteer groups and resource networks to help prevent such practices in their areas, and continue to advocate with local government for better enforcement of the Prevention of Child Marriage Act 2006. Vikalp also builds the capacity of girls and youth to understand the effects of child marriage, their legal rights, and the process for complaint registrations or marriage annulments. Through many of our education and empowerment programs, Vikalp also assist girls who have been married to delay their gauna (process of moving to their in-laws’ houses), continue their educations and live as happy, free, confident and healthy adolescents.
If you see a child marriage happening in your community, please contact Vikalp or call ChildLine at 1098 or Police Control Room 100 or Child Marriage Prevention Officers to alert authorities and receive help.
Born a Changemaker: Chanda’s Story
When Chanda (now 18) was in 9th standard, her father decided it was time she was pulled out of school to be married. Chanda determinedly fought to stay in school with the help of other family members, but after a year the pressure was too much. When Vikalp visited Chanda’s village in Udaipur and heard her story, we supported Chanda to speak to her parents and convince them to let her study through distance education. Since then, Chanda has become an inexhaustible Vikalp youth leader and takes an active role in empowering girls in her area to assert their right to make decisions for their own lives. Chanda participates in trainings and awareness campaigns, and teaches girls in neighbouring villages how to ride a motorcycle and is a key part of expanding Vikalp’s Sports for Empowerment Program. These activities challenge established gender norms and give girls far greater mobility, and Chanda loves being able to share skills that allow girls to be more independent. It hasn’t been an easy path, and Chanda used to ensure beatings and emotional abuse from her father for her work. But over time she has gained the strength to speak to her family and community, and believes she is gradually changing people’s attitudes about what a girl is capable of.