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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Action Aid Muskan, Mangal, Chinta and Rajan, all of whom live in Bara
Girls not Brides

Irish project helping to end child marriage in Nepal

10% of girls in Nepal are married by the age of 15 and 37% by the age of 18.

IN NEPAL 10% of girls are married before the age of 15 and 37% are married before the age of 18, according to Unicef figures.

This is despite the fact the legal age for marriage in the country is 20 for both men and women.

Poverty is the main factor that drives child marriage, as well as being a consequence of it. According to Girls Not Brides – a global partnership of 800 civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage – girls from richer families marry, on average, two years later than those from the poorest families.

However, some communities who live in poverty are challenging this tradition. Action Aid has just completed a 12-year programme in Bara, Nepal, which was funded by hundreds of Irish people through child sponsorship.

Children in rural Bara face many hardships including child labour, marrying young and caste-based discrimination.

The idea of child sponsorship is that an organisation funds community development, benefiting children and families, for a set period of time. Once the community is confident it can continue to develop on its own, the organisation moves on.

As a result of the initiative, many villages in the region are being declared ‘child marriage-free zones’.

In a statement Action Aid said: “Too often, children in the communities of Bara were marrying young and leaving school to work for daily wages in order to support their family’s needs.

“Thanks to these campaigns led and run by children in Bara to encourage more children to attend school, the school enrolment rate has increased from 70% to 90% over the past 12 years.”

In 2005, approximately 40,000 children were out of school in Bara. This figure has reduced dramatically to 6,000.

The overall number of child marriages is harder to define, but is declining. A census carried out in 2011 showed that 53,924 children aged 14 years or under were married (both boys and girls). In 2005, the median age for marriage in Bara was 15.1 years, this has increased to 17.3 years.

Child marriage-free zones

Speaking about his community’s story, 15-year-old Mangal said: “In the past days, marriages were organised at an early age by the parents. They would just have a discussion regarding the amount of dowry to be paid.

“To raise our voice against this unjust practice we submitted a letter to the District Administration Office asking them to declare our village as child marriage-free.

The child marriage ceremonies were boycotted in our village as result of our campaign.

Since 2016, not a single child marriage has occurred in Mangal’s village.

“People are now aware and conscious about child marriage and its effects upon the life of children,” Mangal said.

He is the president of his Children’s Club, a forum originally set up by Action Aid that will continue to be run by the local community and led by children.

A rally to raise awareness about the negative impact of child marriage was organised by the club. The campaign has also helped to minimise child marriages in neighbouring villages.

Children’s Clubs were set up throughout the Bara region as a way of keeping children in school through tackling child marriage and child labour, and by informing children and parents of their rights.

Read: ‘I was haunted by the blood I caused by circumcising girls’

Read: Death toll in worst monsoon season in decades tops 1,200

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