26 Million Child Brides, and Counting…

Dasra is India’s leading strategic philanthropy foundation, strengthening growth plans of more than 3500 non-profits and social businesses and have engaged with and educated 1000 philanthropists, multi-lateral agencies and corporate foundations on strategic philanthropy, enabled over $42 million in funding to social entrepreneurs. As our strategy partner, they are focusing on issues such as early pregnancy and child marriages. We present a blog from them, written to create awareness regarding International Girl’s Day, which highlights the repercussions of early marriage for a girl; one of the major causes for high maternal mortality.

 

Written by Sonvi  A. Khanna, Dasra

 

Her budding adolescent body and the developing foetus within her, were fighting each other for growth. The last time, her body won the battle and the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. This time she fervently prays to lose, so her child can survive. Such is the dilemma experienced by many of the 26 million child brides who live across the country today.

 

For tradition, for security, for lesser dowries or for a sack of rice- girls are married off as children for multiple reasons across India. A tradition that is surely archaic and should have died out long ago, has found refuge in modern problems of increasing sexual violence against women, poverty and socio-cultural strife.  By marrying their girls early, families believe they have secured the future of their daughters and provided them with a custodian who would protect them from violence and sexual predation. Few understand, that they are putting their girls in greater and more certain danger of sexual and physical violence by marrying them so young, and sending them to live with their husband when they are hardly prepared for what marriage entails. Gaudy gossip and their mother’s dictat to “refuse him nothing,” is all these girls get in the name of sex education. “Be good and don’t let us down” is the only negotiation tactic imparted before these child brides depart from home. It is therefore no surprise, that child brides are thrice as likely to report being subjected to forced sex and twice as likely to report being beaten, compared to older married women. These child brides are also twice as likely to die in childbirth as women in their twenties.

 

These facts are as shocking to parents of potential child brides as they are to us; provided they get to learn about them. It is thus, that NGOs working to end child marriage in India, are making a concerted effort to inform and motivate key decision-makers in a girl’s life, to re-evaluate the practice of child marriage. These organizations help decision-makers understand how child marriage endangers rather than protects their girl from violence, unhappiness and death. In addition to challenging the norm, these NGOs offer alternatives to child marriage that are likely to empower the young girls to realize and achieve their full potential. ​URMUL Trust in Bikaner is one such NGO that not only sensitizes the community against this harmful practice but has had tremendous success in bringing girls back to school through their Balika Shivirs or residential schools; now adopted by the government.

 

Dasra’s report Marry Me Later: Preventing Child Marriage and Early Pregnancy in India highlights the work of many more such NGOs. One look is enough to realize how much work is being done on the ground to make child marriage history in India. Dasra is backing this struggle to help India prevent another 28 million girls from becoming child brides by 2030! Would you join us?

 

 

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