Eradication of Child Marriage in India Thanks to Schools and Cell Phones |

The poster features a young girl with pigtails tied at the ends with a pink ribbon. She has a face of despair as she walks next to an older man. The wreaths around their necks indicate that they have just married.

She holds in her hand a small blackboard with the first letters of the Hindi alphabet written on it.

The following image shows another life of the girl. She is smiling happily, dressed for school, sitting next to her smiling mother.

The message is simple but effective. Educate your children and end child marriage.

With the help of innovative mobile phone services, UN agencies are working with governments and local authorities of Rajasthan to combat child marriage.

UN India/JAS

With the help of innovative mobile phone services, UN agencies are working with governments and local authorities of Rajasthan to combat child marriage.

Saffna’s story

The young girl in the Naubat Baja poster could be Sapna*, a young girl from Jaipur in her early teens. Although she’s still a minor, her family has kicked her out of her classroom and volunteered Shreya* at Jeevan Ashram Sansthan (JAS), an NGO that empowers her women and girls as she prepares to marry her. intervened.

Shreya knew about the Naubat Baja mission and had a phone number. In June 2021, she was informed that a minor in Jaipur was going to marry a 30-year-old man.

Sapna’s father took a loan from the man’s family. When he became unable to repay, he became the father of the groom, a lender, and he said he would write off the loan if Sapna married his son.

Shreya called the helpline and the police took action. Her wedding was interrupted. Sapna was sent to shelter for two months, but she is now home and back to school.

UNFPA is using new and innovative ways to spread a socially relevant message to young people.

United Nations India/Jinab Degamwala

UNFPA is using new and innovative ways to spread a socially relevant message to young people.

From music to mobile

This poster is part of a campaign by Naubat Baja Missed Call Radio, a cloud phone-based radio channel in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, to address youth well-being, empowerment and health issues.

The word Naubat Baja refers to an ensemble of instruments that were played together in ancient times to attract people’s attention. This initiative is the new incarnation of the digital age, which delivers a message against harmful practices such as child marriage and sexism.

Launched on International Women’s Day 2019, Naubat Baja relies heavily on the power of mobile phones to penetrate India’s most remote areas. The initiative is based on the fact that cell phones are young people’s favorite means of communication, especially in areas where people have little access to television, cable or the Internet.

Many states in India, including Rajasthan, prohibit child marriage. Shreya witnessed this firsthand in her own family. Her two older sisters say she got married when she was a minor.

“I saw the challenges they are currently facing due to lack of education. I don’t want other girls to fall into this trap.” Breaking away from her sister’s fate, says Shreya, who is studying for her graduate degree.

100 million girls at risk

in March 2021 reportUNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), estimates that some 100 million girls are at risk of child marriage over the next decade.

The study found that the COVID-19 pandemic caused “school closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy and parental deaths” and put an additional 10 million vulnerable girls at risk of early marriage.

In Rajasthan, civil society organizations such as JAS are fighting the practice and succeeding in spreading awareness of that risk through innovative programs such as Naubat Baja.

“Families who are having a hard time supporting themselves are better off marrying their daughters even when they are young. That means fewer mouths to feed,” says Radhika Sharma, Director of JAS.

Arranging a wedding in an era of epidemics also means ensuring the safety of offspring for parents by marrying daughters early, as restrictions on gatherings cut expenses and people traveling away from home in search of work.

“Parents often think that if their daughters get married early, they will be safe,” Ms. Sharma adds. “If I was known to be married, I wouldn’t be physically abused,” she said. Poverty, lack of education, patriarchy and gender inequality are also important elements of the practice.”

Music, Entertainment, Empowerment

The goal of the Naubat Baja program is not only to oppose the practice of child marriage, but to empower girls in other ways.

Girls dial a Naubat Baja number and receive a call that includes 15 minutes of free entertainment recordings full of Hindi movie songs, short stories, comedy or satire audio dramas about social issues.

There are news about job opportunities, general knowledge facts and information about government welfare plans for young people.

Messages on the topics of early marriage, domestic violence, adolescent girl health, menstrual hygiene, gender sensitivity, financial awareness, Corona 19 rules, and prevention rules are delivered through the drama.

Regularly updated programs overseen by UNFPA representatives are produced in studios with the help of a content team of researchers and delivered by professional audio content creators.

The program is popularized through social media, graffiti and awareness campaigns in rural and urban areas by volunteers, community leaders, Panchayats (Rural Government Agencies), Anganwadi (Rural Child Care Centers) and Asha (Certified Social Health Activists) staff. has been

The volunteers and youth group leaders associated with Naubat Baja are called champions. Shreya is one of them.

don’t even dream

In Rajasthan, we are working to get more partners into the anti-child marriage movement. Local frontline staff and members of Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS), one of the largest youth networks in the world, are trained to hold meetings and talk to young girls and families in the community about messages broadcast by Naubat Baja.

“This initiative is one of the innovative strategies adopted by UNFPA and its partners to ensure that young people are aware of their rights and opportunities and have access to accurate information and services related to health and well-being. To address the social issues affecting them.” UNFPA India Representative Sriram Haridass explains.

Thousands of Sapnas will dare to dream when strategies start to bear fruit and there are countless initiatives like Naubat Baja that engage and empower young people like Shreya.

Naubat Baja’s Anti-Child Marriage poster sums it up well. At school, next to the happy high school girl, the mother says, “I will let the children’s dreams soar.”

A version of this story was published earlier this month by the United Nations Agency for Reproductive Rights (UNFPA). you can find it Here.

*Name change to protect identity

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Author: bm4ey

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