Karuna Trust

Our vision is of a world without prejudice, in which every human being has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of their background or beliefs. We aim to do this by challenging the ignorance and prejudice that trap people in poverty.
Dec 19, 2011

Ending Child Marriage

I was pleased to come across this story on the Guardian Online (http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/mar/03/ending-child-marriage-india-health/print).

By supporting this project, you are helping girls like Sughandha.

.......

Sugandha is conducting a session on raising awareness about the perils of child marriage among a group of schoolgirls. They listen with rapt attention to the didi (elder sister) they all admire. Sugandha came back to school after being married and then thrown out of her in-laws' home when her first-born died.

"Right now I work as a peer educator for a programme called Youth for Change. We arrange meetings and inform people about the ill effects of early marriages. Moreover, we have been successful in stopping a few child marriages," she says proudly.

Sugandha lives in Uttar Pradesh – one of the largest states in India – where 40% of girls are married before the age of 18, according to the District Level Household and Facility Survey – 3. Uttar Pradesh is among the top five states in India when it comes to rates of child marriage. Development indicators are among the lowest, and poverty, gender discrimination and migration have a big impact on child marriage and on the health of girls and young women.

Many rationalizations are made for marrying girls young, even though the marriage of those under 18 has been illegal since 1929, ie since the era of the British rule in India.

"My father died when I was quite young. Because of this there was pressure from the village, which forced my mother to get me married at a young age. I was very young – I couldn't say anything, I didn't understand," says Sugandha.

Despite new provisions having been made under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, under which a child marriage prohibition officer must be in place at the local level, implementation is weak. The officer must ensure no child marriages takes place in their jurisdiction by approaching the courts for an injunction, collecting evidence against people, creating awareness about the negative effects of child marriage, and collecting data concerning child marriages, among other functions.

However, the elected village head in Sugandha's village said: "I have heard that child marriage is an offence but I have not read the law yet. Even now child marriage is taking place, because people say that a girl is someone else's property, therefore she should be married as soon as possible so she goes to her "own" home. I'm faced with a situation where if I take any action against them, the villagers will be up against me. So even if I know, I think it's best that I keep quiet."

Despite an awareness of the law, and of the consequences of child marriage on the sexual and reproductive health of girls and young women, the gender disparity and a disregard for women in society means there is a lack of political will to see the law to its execution at the grassroots. According to Unicef's State of the World's Children Report 2007: "Premature pregnancy and motherhood are an inevitable consequence of child marriage. Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s."

In another district of Uttar Pradesh, closer to the Indian capital, New Delhi, a group of boys and young men are listening to another peer educator talk about sexual and reproductive health. One of the young men tentatively raises his hand to ask, "Every time I have sex with my wife, she falls ill. Why is that?"

Not only is pregnancy a big concern for girls who have been married young, but also the act of sex has not been demystified and remains an unpleasant act at best, or worse, an act of violence. Girls and young women's sexuality is denied all their lives and then they are suddenly pushed into a marital relationship where they are expected to satisfy their husbands and prove their fertility.

The law also puts the onus for prevention of child marriage on the person performing the ceremony. However, the priest in Sugandha's village said, "We have not received any guidelines or any rules [on the Child Marriage Act], but I can tell you that marriage should be when the girl is 18 or over, when she is ready to understand and mature enough to shoulder responsibilities. [But] every year we perform five to eight marriages where they are below 15 or 15 to 16 years old. Even now we'll be doing so – the dates are booked."

The International Planned Parenthood Federation considers child marriage to be a human rights violation. Ending child marriage is essential to make progress towards international and national development goals, including the millennium development goals.

Nov 15, 2011

A view from the ground

Mina, project leader on the ground explains the crucial role that volunteers of Nishtha play in delivering the project’s activities – their struggle, determination, courage, and the fruits of their efforts. In Mina’s own words -

 "They have taken action to improve their environment, speak up against violence, and advocate for their rights. The women’s groups (Called Mahila Mandals) have mounted successful campaign against violence and alcoholism and have promoted community participation in all aspects of village decision making. These grass root groups have broadened the social network. The members of the groups, majority of whom are illiterate vegetable vendors and agriculture labourers, maid servants, and of whom a large number had sustained torture and humiliation everyday in their life; have not only brought themselves out of darkness, but have also given relief to fellow victimised women and brought them to light too.

Nishtha volunteers have built up groups of volunteers on different age group. The members of these groups are trained and oriented on various aspects to fight injustice against women and girls. As a result of four-tier pyramid groups and their grass root level work there has been significant reduction of reported cases of violence, atrocities and gender based discrimination against women.

Over the decades Nishtha has been working with the ever deprived girl children and women of the society. There are signs of improvement and changes. The poor women, members of the volunteer groups have to starve if they do not work for a day, have to work for 15 to 16 hours a day to earn two square meals. These women with their sincere love and devotion are putting their efforts to save the lives of their fellow deprived and tortured sisters. These women have never received any appreciation or recognition from any level; they do not expect recognition either. But these volunteers are the real ‘Heroes of the Day’ to us and to the victim women who received support and help from them."

Nov 15, 2011

Sandeep's Story

Child’s Name: Sandeep Dnyandev Kere

Village:  Nilwande

Education: 10th standard

Age :  18 years

 

Situation before joining the course

Sandeep was residing in Nilwande village which is far from town. His financial condition was very poor.   His father is a mason and mother does labour work, but their income is mostly dependent on the availability of work on that particular day.   His elder brother studied till 11th standard and now he is also doing farm work.  Sandeep has studied till 10th standard, but he failed in one subject. After that he did not go to school for the past two years and was instead helping parents with farming. 

 

Present Situation:

Sandeep heard about NISD through the project social workers. He decided to join the Electrical Repair & Maintenance of Household Appliances course. He attended the course regularly. He completed the course successfully. He has now started his own self-employment business. He recently got a contract to work in one of the houses in the village. Not only has this turned his life around and given him faith and confidence in himself, but he is able to also provide much-needed financial support to his family.

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