A Little Angel: Not a Bride

A girl child is perceived as a little angel by a proud parent. Meanwhile, there is this tradition: child marriage where parents decide their girl child’s marriage once she steps on the earth. That is why I am saying A little Angel is not a Bride.

During my childhood I have requested my grand parents to tell me the bed time stories. Yeap! you guessed is correct!! It was all about princess and her prince charming. When I was too young, there was only one Nepali Television channel which used to broadcast different program in social issue. I was unknown about child marriage issue until I had watched award winning film produced by UNICEF “Ujeli: A Child Bride in Nepal”. By then, 40% of women in Nepal marry before the age of 14. Early marriage has resulted in a lack of education for girls as well as an extremely high mortality rate during child birth. UJELI: A Child Bride in Nepal documented the life of a girl forced into marriage at a young age. It is hoped that dialogue and debate will be stimulated in Nepal regarding the risk to women’s health when young girls marry. It was broadcast in 1992 through Nepali Television. Now, I clearly do not remember the whole serial but have vivid memory of some episodes. It was filmed on location in the Rasuwa district of Nepal, the dramatized story of 10 year old Ujeli. Against the advice of her teacher and doctor, who warn of the dangers of early child bearing, Ujeli’s parent arrange for her to be married. Excluded from school and forced to work from dusk to dawn, Ujeli rapidly assumes the responsibilities of an adult woman, including motherhood. At that time period, the maternal mortality rate was 850 per 100,000 live births is among the highest in the world.

Child marriage is a global problem which affects millions across the world but especially girls in South Asia. The Government of Nepal has signed many international instruments designed to tackle this problem and has passed a law forbidding child marriage but has found it difficult to eradicate the phenomenon due to weak enforcement and low levels of awareness. In Nepal, by law both boys and girls can marry at the age of 18 with parental permission and at the age of 20 without it. By custom, however, some communities have been arranging the marriage of children under the age of 18 for generations. Child marriage has numerous adverse effects on the overall well being of children who are mentally, psychologically, emotionally and physically unfit for married life. It constitutes a violation of child rights and must be abolished. There is no up to date national level information or data on child marriage. But there has been changing paradigms and patterns of child marriage. Because the majority of Nepal’s population is illiterate, ignorant and disadvantaged, age old traditions and customs are not easy to do away with. However, education and awareness among people, especially those living in the rural areas, can make a difference. Unless people are made aware of the devastating  multi-prolonged effects of early marriage, they will not strive to eliminate it from society. People should also be made aware of human rights so that they are aware of their own rights of children. Only then will parents be motivated to ensure that their children enjoy their right to a childhood.

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2 thoughts on “A Little Angel: Not a Bride

  1. When I read this blog entry, I could not help but feel that there needs to be a more appropriate SBCC intervention developed around child marriage, but not one that enforces the law more strongly, or that only creates awareness. We really need to stop looking at law enforcement and awareness as the only solutions to our problems. How can we help others to better understand why this practice is harmful, and how can we help those who support child marriage to see another option to upholding traditions that do not harm young people and children? I think there are ways to go about this that include engaging grandparents, parents, village elders, police, and children themselves, about why they continue such traditions, and how they might adapt harmful traditions into healthful traditions. It reminds me of the work of Bogaletch Gebre of Ethiopia, who single handedly reduced FGM by not only educating and creating awareness of the harmful effects of FGM, but by also helping communities create a new tradition to replace the old one (FGM), where they had a big festival to celebrate all the uncut girls and their mothers who supported them remaining uncut, rather than glorify FGM as the norm. So the new social norm became saying no to FGM and being proud to have your daughter remain uncut. I think such an approach might be interesting to try in Nepal related to child marriage. What do you think, Kumari?

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