Child marriage is illegal in Nepal since 1963, however even after 60 years later child marriage is still prevalent in a rural part of Nepal. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 2018) has clearly stated the criminalization of a number of harmful practices, including child marriage. Child marriage is a well-known tale from the Karnali region, but the story of Ramita BK (14) from the remote village (Chhauthikot) of Karnali Province could surprise you.
Chhauthikot is situated about 25 km away from the headquarter of Kalikot district, Manma. It lies in the lap of the hard rock mountain. The lifestyle, education, health and other sectors in this Palika are critically challenged by its geography. The parents of Ramita BK are away in India, to earn for three siblings, good education and quality life. She along with her siblings lives in Chauthikot, Naraharinath, Kalikot with her grandmother. On 22nd December 2022, same little teenage girl, made a life decision and eloped with 15-year-old teenage boy.
After hearing the news of her granddaughter eloping, she informed and seek help from the animator of Puspanjali SAMVAD Centre. Along with girls from SAMVAD Centre, animator Alasta Pariyar went to boy’s house. Animator provided counseling on long term impact of early child marriage on her life. Ramita realised importance of education and skills in life and it was not their right time to get married.
She is now back at her house with her grandmother and has committed not to get married before the permitted age by law. She is now a regular member of the Puspanjali SAMVAD Centre. She is happy to get back to school and is living the life one teenage girl deserves. "I was unaware about child marriage and its repercussions on my physical and mental health. I am happy that I am back home and joined SAMVAD centre. It was eye opening moment for me. I am committed to engage myself in SAMVAD center, share my experiences and aware on child marriage with other adolescents girls, and continue schooling. SAMVAD is generating awareness on social issues like chhaupadi, gender-based voilence and discrimination etc., and also learned about the environmental issues, on which the Paila project is working on." says Ramita B.K with a broad smile.
Her grandmother is pleased with the SAMVAD Center and acknowledged the step taken to get her granddaughter back home. SAMVAD Centers has been using different other awareness-raising campaigns in their community to educate about the social and environmental issues. SAMVAD 's animator Alasta's is committed to be the voice of these girls has been successful in bringing Ramita back to her home. " Child marriage has to be eliminated despite its strong hold on society. We can bring the change by working together" says Alasta proudly.
Unless people are made aware of the devastating multi-pronged effects of early marriage, they will not strive to eliminate it from society. SAHAS Nepal has zero tolerance against child marriages and working against it through various projects and programme. SAHAS Nepal is implementing, Paila: Establishing Model Food Secure, Environmentally Sustainable and Climate Resilent Palikas funded by Felm, Finland in Naraharinath Palika, Kalikot. The project is also working to address the cross-cutting issues on capacity building of youth by forming SAMVAD Centre where teenage girls discuss on different subject matter related to social issues, hygiene, and environmental issues every day.
Written by: Maniksha Acharya
Reviewed by: Rumi Maharjan