Ending child marriage in Nepal for girls like Gita
24 May 2016
Fourteen-year-old Gita wasn’t ready for marriage, but her mother didn’t see any other option. Gita’s father had died suddenly, the family was poor, and they belonged to a community of “untouchables” in the poor country of Nepal.
The marriage, to a 20-year-old man, would have likely made her drop out of school. But thanks to the quick intervention of a UNICEF-supported women’s group, Gita’s mother made a last-minute decision to postpone the marriage until she’s at least 18, and Gita is still free to enjoy her childhood and get an education.
Child marriage is a big issue in Nepal, where until a few years ago nearly half of all women between the ages of 20 and 49 were married before their 18th birthday. Of these, 15 percent were not even 15 years old at the time of marriage.
ING was the first donor (in 2013) to support UNICEF’s adolescent development programme in Nepal, which enabled UNICEF to research the situation of adolescent girls and boys. Based on those findings, UNICEF convened youth, parents, religious leaders, civil society organisations and the government. The outcome was a national action plan for adolescents that’s now being implemented, including ending child marriage.
“Adolescents are often overlooked,” said Marieke Roelfsema, Programme Advisor UNICEF Netherlands. “We’re very happy that in ING we found a partner to invest in improving adolescents’ lives and contribute to breaking the cycles of poverty and harmful social norms and practices in six countries.”
ING and UNICEF have helped many kids throughout our decade-long partnership and are currently working together on the Power for Youth initiative.
The partnership is about showing youth between 10 and 19 years old in six countries how to empower themselves to improve their future and the future of those around them.
The partnership aims to reach nearly 335,000 young people in these countries by 2018.
Thanks to ING’s support, UNICEF teaches kids financial skills and life skills training sessions, livelihood awareness and micro-enterprise development training, and engages with parents, communities and religious leaders to address prevailing harmful social norms, such as child marriage.
Risks of child marriage
Child marriage is vital to address. Girls who marry before they turn 18 are less likely to remain in school and are at risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. Young teenage girls are more likely to die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s; their infants are more likely to be stillborn or die in the first month of life.
It was to end these harmful practices that the government of Nepal pledged to end child marriage by 2030 at the London Girl Summit in 2014. Nepal recently hosted its own first-ever Girl Summit to continue focusing on helping girls like Gita.