Nitesh Singh, 16, is a tenth grader at Bhawani Secondary School and chairs a child captain group working to end child marriage in his rural municipality. Child marriage is rampant in his and surrounding communities in former Jayabageshwori and Kada Village Development Committees (Chededaha Rural Municipality) in Bajura District. Most of the parents arrange their children’s marriage and their decision prevails. While other child marriages are a result of adolescents in love eloping or negative influence of their peers who have already tied the knot. And this trend seems to be rising. After getting married, these adolescents leave school to fulfill domestic duties and adult responsibilities.
GNI Nepal in collaboration with Srijansil Multipurpose Farmers Group—a local community-based organization—conducted a ‘0 Campaign’ aiming to eradicate child marriage in Chededaha Rural Municipality. A child captain group having 19 members was formed to support the campaign. A set of a long answer and multiple choice questions was administered to these adolescents to test their understanding of harms of child marriage, precautionary measures, and possible actions. Selected captains were capacitated on wall-calendar publication and they discussed strategic actions for the next six months. With support from GNI Nepal these captains conducted monthly meetings, wallcalendar publications, weekly awareness-raising extra activities sessions against child marriage, deuda (singing) competitions, home visits and counseling, cultural shows, and discussions in their communities and schools. These activities culminated in a broader awareness of physical, emotional, financial, and educational harms engendered by child marriage.
Teenage pairs who could potentially elope were identified by the group and with the assistance from teachers and counseled against marrying early. And, in Kada and Jayabewshwori, three pairs in love, after they were counseled, have committed to not marrying before reaching legal age. This campaign has had a net positive effect on parents, adults, teachers and more importantly children and they have been encouraged to fight against child marriage in their homes, schools, and communities. As a part of the campaign, a series of school, community and ward level discussions were held, including Chededaha Rural Municipality. In a meeting having the participation of school representatives, child captains, ward chairs, Chededaha Rural Municipality decided to deprive couples and adults forcing children into early marriage from accessing public services, facilities, and attestations. This penal measure will be approved and enforced by the village council.
Nar Bahadur Rawat, Chair, Chededaha Rural Municipality expressed,” It would be a matter of pride for me to be known as the chair of a rural municipality where zero child marriages happen but more importantly, the issue here at stake is children’s lives and their future. That’s why child marriage must end. My team is totally committed to this cause and I will domy part to implement the decisions taken”.