Children say 'No!' to early marriage
Fourteen-year-old Bijay recently told his parents he would not get married.
Bijay lives with his family in Rautahat, Nepal. He was supposed to be married last year. Bijay's parents had planned the marriage without consulting him, and he found out only days beforehand. The bus fare for the marriage procession had been paid, the relatives invited, and the bride readied.
Bijay's classmates plead his caseDespite the advanced stage of the arrangements, Bijay tried to convince his parents to stop the proceedings. On his own, he explained that he wanted to get married only after he could earn a living independently; that, at 14, his goals were to study and get a good job. His father, Rajendra, refused to listen to his son’s appeal, saying it was their custom to arrange the marriages of their children and to get married young.
Bijay was thus forced to take a more extreme step: he informed the other students in his better life skills class. Together they visited his home to meet his father and explain to him that early marriage results in physical and mental problems. His father was not interested. He reprimanded them for interfering in a private matter. The group refused to give in, but could not get Bijay’s parents to change their mind.
Local social workers interveneBijay’s third step was to involve local social workers. They asked that the marriage be put off, citing not only the negative social consequences but also the negative legal consequences. Finally, his parents agreed. They promised not to get him married before he turns 20. Bijay is happy because he can pursue his plans to be a teacher.
Bijay knew his rights“We are very fortunate to be involved in a program that brings such significant changes to our community, especially in the deep-rooted practice of child marriage,” said Naga Sah, the local supervisor of the Better Life Options Program of which Bijay is a member.
The Better Life Options Program aims to empower adolescents by increasing their awareness of — and enabling them to make decisions about — matters of significance to them. The curriculum includes the physical and mental changes in adolescents, reproductive health, HIV and AIDS, roles and responsibilities in the family, women's rights and legal matters, child marriage, dowry, discrimination between boys and girls, and child rights.
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