Early and Child Marriage is a deep rooted tradition in the societies around the world. Besides other reasons, it is the social pressures within a community which leads families to marry their children young. For example, some cultures believe marrying girls before they reach puberty will bring blessings on families. Some societies believe that early marriage will protect young girls from sexual attacks and violence and see it as a way to insure that their daughter will not become pregnant outside of wedlock and bring dishonor to the family. Poor families marry off young daughters to reduce the number of children they need to feed, clothe and educate.
Statistics published in a leading daily reveals that traditional beliefs and pressure from the relatives and community together accounts to main reasons in approximately 40% of the cases of Early and Child Marriage. Therefore, it is important to involve the community in any move to prevent early and child marriage.
In this backdrop, Zainab and Rukaiyya, (Youth Facilitators in the program My Life Mere Faisle program run by YES Foundation, in partnership with Pravah in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh) took up the initiative to forma Sakhi Chaupal.
Advocating for prevention of child marriage in their community they mobilized a group and named it Sakhi Chaupaal in their village. This group mainly comprises mainly of mothers who would act as to stop child marriage in their community. In the first mobilization bid, 50 mothers were contacted but only few women gave their consent to joining the program.
A major challenge faced was the reluctance of the women to listen to the problem. Some mothers were defiant and considered this as the prerogative of the family. These Youth Facilitators then with support from YES Foundation (Yeh Ek Soch, Partner, My Life Mere Faisle) conducted workshops to give the detailed nuances of issue of child marriage.
The age group of the facilitators also posed a threat to the seriousness towards this issue. However when the facilitators demonstrated their skill, this doubt was done away with.
Regular meetings and discussions helped the members see value in the issue Zainab and Rukaiyya were advocating. Gradually, the discussions started moving beyond these meetings and within the family. More and more mothers started joining along with their girls in the community and together decided to stop child marriage within their community. Efforts are on within the community and Zainab and Rukaiyya are determined to prevent Child Marriage in their community.
“In the course of the work of Sakhi Chaupal, a girl named Khushboo, who was a regular participant of MLMF, told us that her parents were going to get her married at the age of 17. Members of the group took on the simple approach of reasoning with the girl’s parents and explaining how marriage at this age will be counter-productive. They advocated against the issue strongly placing the realities in front of the parents and those close to the family. Finally after a month of convincing, the parents agreed to hold off the marriage.”
“The turnout at the Sakhi Chaupaal meetings was a high point. When people addressed me as “neta ji” it was proof of the fact that they are willing to be guided on this issue”.
Youth like Zainab are eager to work to address such issues in their communities. Given a space to express their aspirations, their desires and their fears in a without being inhibited by fear of judgement, they flower into leaders capable of affecting the change they dream of!
We aim to create more such spaces for more young people in our country.