The global organization Girls Not Brides defines child marriage as an issue “rooted in gender inequality,” which is ultimately “made worse by poverty, lack of education, harmful social norms and practices, and insecurity.” The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal has one of the highest rates of child marriage in South Asia, and Plan International suggests that “37% of Nepali women aged 20-24 years are married by the age of 18 and 10% of those are married before 15.”
Reasons for the Prevalence of Child Marriage in Nepal
Child marriage in Nepal, as well as across the globe, is a clear violation of a child’s human rights. There are many factors that contribute to the prevalence of child marriage, and poverty is one of those significant factors. In some countries, deeply entrenched cultural and social traditions stand as a reason for child marriage. For instance, some families marry their daughters off young in order to preserve their “purity”—a girl who marries young will be less likely to engage in sexual relations outside of marriage and bring shame to the family.
Families experiencing extreme poverty see child marriage as a way of relieving their economic burdens, as the girl’s husband will take on the financial burden of care. Additionally, the child bride’s parents may receive money or gifts that will bring relief to their economic struggle.
Champions of Change
Plan International is a humanitarian organization that advocates for the advancement of “children’s rights and equality for girls.” Plan International implements several girl-led and youth-centered campaigns to promote gender quality in the country. For example, through Plan International’s Champions of Change, the organization aims to utilize youth engagement to advance gender equality and address issues that disproportionately impact females in the country, such as child marriage. Child marriage is, in fact, one of the main focuses of the Champions of Change program.
Asha is a 22-year-old female who is a facilitator for Plan International’s Champions of Change program in Nepal. Having avoided child marriage herself, Asha aims to help young girls understand their right to make decisions regarding their futures and bodies. On weekends, Asha facilitates training sessions on gender equality for young girls in Nepal between the ages of 10 and 24. “I want all the participants to learn about their bodies and their choices. This will help them to understand why child marriage is a harmful traditional practice,” Asha says to Plan International.
Unfortunately, child marriage is not uncommon. Young girls who find themselves in this situation face a threat to their futures and well-being. UNICEF recognizes that in order to find a lasting solution to child marriage, the world must address the factors that enable it. Campaigning for gender equality remains the most effective way to transform the lives of girls across the globe. Educating younger generations about the harmful nature of child marriage should be a necessary requirement for all schools. Organizations continue to promote the significance of education around this topic, for both young girls and boys, while also running campaigns with the aim of helping young females understand their rights.
– Olivia Taylor