Rural Bihari Girls Question Child Marriage, Thanks to Reproductive Education

Rural Bihari Girls Question Child Marriage, Thanks to Reproductive Education

Of the 14 million girls who will become child brides this year, one in three will be an Indian.

It’s hard to overestimate the injustice of child marriage. A girl married before the legal age of consent (18) is stripped of her right to choose—not only to choose her partner, but also in matters of education, health, mobility, and bodily integrity. Early marriage also puts her at high risk for domestic partner abuse and complications during childbirth. She is relegated to a lifetime of servitude without having had a chance to educate and develop herself fully.

The good news? Education—particularly sexual and reproductive education—has shown to empower girls to take matters into their own hands and negotiate with parents for later marriage.

Who knew that sexual and reproductive education could have such far-reaching effects? According to Times of India, NGO PRACHAR in Bihar delivered a three-day training to unmarried adolescent boys and girls (ages 15-19). The training consisted of “child marriage, healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, contraceptive methods, HIV and sexually transmitted infections, sexual abuse and responsible marriage and parenting,” and was part of a larger 11-year program rolled out across several districts in Bihar.

Five to 10 years later, the participating girls showed retention of the material. But what’s more, some girls had actually educated their parents on the benefits of later marriage (and succeeded in delaying marriage), and even banded together to report early marriages to authorities and urge them to speak to parents.

This girl-led revolution would come as no surprise to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), who recently released a new report entitled “More Power to Her: How Empowering Girls Can Help End Child Marriage,” demonstrating the influence that informed girls can exert on their communities.

Their strategy is five-pronged:

  1. Empower girls with information, skills and support networks
  2. Provide economic support and incentives to girls and their families
  3. Educate and rally parents and community members
  4. Enhance girls’ access to a high-quality education, and
  5. Encourage supportive laws and policies

Read the full story at TOI to learn the other proposed solutions: Education including sex education can curb the evils of child marriage

Your Turn

Check out Breakthrough’s Nation Against Child Marriage campaign to learn more about the issue, educate yourself on the law, and take action through advocacy. Also, find other opportunities to get involved in this cause through Girls Not Brides and Educate Girls, who do fantastic work in this realm.