Married at 14?
“In some of our communities, when a girl starts showing signs of maturity she becomes the focus in that community and the next thing to happen is to initiate her in the secret society without even asking her consent and finally to give her hand in marriage to whomever her family pleases.”
— Konima, age 18, Sierra Leone (Plan, Because I am a Girl: The State of the World’s Girls 2007, 2007)
Can you imagine getting married at the age of 14?Lalmuni, from Nepal, was 14 when her parents decided she should be married. Horrified, she knew her marriage would mean the end of her education and have devastating implications upon the rest of her life.
Early marriage, or child marriage, is a practice most common in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and is often fueled by poverty and custom. The dowry that parents in Nepal receive for their daughter from the husband's family is often the financial incentive for many child marriages. In Nepal, where Lalmuni lives, over 40 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are married (UNICEF, 2001; Early marriage: child spouses; Innocenti Digest No 7).
A 14-year-old is still very much a child. In fact, according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a child is anyone below the age of 18. But although most countries have officially declared 18 as the legal minimum age of marriage, these laws are rarely ever applied and few prosecutions are brought against those who break the law.
How is Plan helping stop early marriage?In desperation, Lalmuni took her problem to her local Child Club, one of 600 such child-focused clubs begun by Plan around her country that raises awareness among children of their rights, and of such dangers as child trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Other initiatives to stop the exploitation of children include community meetings and watchdog groups, Women’s Federations, vocational training and Plan Nepal’s Better Life Option Program. The BLOP, as it is commonly called, is a life skill training program offered to adolescent girls and boys that seeks to help children deal with issues like legal rights, child marriage, domestic violence and reproductive health.
In communities in Nepal where Plan is present, the average age of marriage for girls has risen from 11-12 years old to 16-17 years old.
And Lalmuni?Lalmuni’s friends decided to meet her parents and persuade them to change their minds. At first, Lalmuni’s parents were unconvinced by her friends’ arguments against Lalmuni’s marriage. But the girls did not give up. They patiently explained to Lalmuni’s parents some of the risks associated with early marriage:
- Married girls are more likely to have less education and fewer schooling opportunities than unmarried girls, thereby jeopardizing future income-generating opportunities;
- Married girls may be at greater risk of gender-based violence than women who marry later in life;
- Married girls face increased reproductive health risks.
Lalmuni’s parents were profoundly affected by her friends’ concern for her well-being. Eventually, they changed their mind and let their daughter continue her education. Today, Lalmuni is still attending school and is an active member of her local Child Club.
What can you do?
Donate today and help prevent the exploitation and trafficking of children and women. Your support helps make our trafficking and exploitation prevention programs in countries like Nepal among the most effective and successful: Lalmuni is just one of the thousands of children saved thanks to the generosity of Plan's supporters.
Learn more about Plan's work in Nepal.