“Her Choice: Building child marriage free communities in Nepal” is a two-year project to address the devastatingly high child marriage rate in the country. After the COVID-19 pandemic, education and economic opportunities have decreased and the number of child marriages is steep. Safe and empowering environments where girls feel supported by their families, their school, their community, and the local government, and where joint efforts for sustainable economic improvement are being made, provide girls and young women the possibility to choose for a better future: this is Her Choice!
Our programme applies a proven holistic approach to tackle the problem, focusing on mobilizing relevant community actors as change agents to address underlying factors, beliefs, and processes leading to child marriage.
For the implementation of this project, CWIN Nepal, a leading child rights organization in the country, and ICDI have once again joined forces. CWIN will be responsible for the coordination and implementation of the project in the target regions, whilst ICDI will provide technical support through training, research, and advice. The project will be implemented in one site in Nepal, and all activities will take place over 24 months. This programme will focus on the marginalised Musahar community (with a 20% literacy rate), which is the second largest Dalit population in Nepal. The community is the victim of untouchability and ethnic discrimination and faces difficulties when it comes to obtaining citizenship cards. This is the reason why most marriages and births in these communities are unregistered. As a result, they are deprived of education, child nutrition allowance, Dalit scholarship, citizenship, and social security allowance.
Commonly, girls of school-going age among Musharan communities have been unable to get admitted at the local community school since their births were not registered, and child marriage runs rife. The urgent need for registration, education, and awareness raising in the community is enormous. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed Musahars even further to the margins. Untouchability and caste discrimination continued against members of the Dalit community, especially Musahars, in government quarantine, clearly explicit in unfair food distribution practices.
Throughout the country, 40% of Nepalese girls are married before their 18th birthday (the second highest rate in Asia). The negative effects of child marriage are manifested in many ways. The girls are neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers. They are likely to get pregnant before their body has fully developed, which can result in prenatal complications and maternal mortality. A child bride is also at increased risk of suffering domestic violence. As a result of school dropouts, these girls have limited career opportunities and are likely to live in poverty. It is possible they will not be able to provide their babies with adequate care and food.
No society can afford the lost opportunities, waste of talent, or personal exploitation that child marriage causes. Girls who marry later attain higher levels of education, fare better economically, have fewer children, and raise healthier families. Factors that put a girl at risk of early marriage are poverty, gender inequality, lack of safety, and social and cultural traditions. Although child marriage is illegal in Nepal, traditions and religious laws often overrule national legislation. As a result, child marriage is widely practiced.
The long-term goal is to support the creation of child marriage-free communities in which girls and young women are free to decide if, when, and whom to marry. The 3 intervention activities (described below) are based on evidence, which shows that the most consistent results of targeting child marriages are achieved by fostering information, skills, and networks for girls in combination with community mobilisation.
We aim to achieve the project objectives through the following activities:
1. Strengthening the economic security of girls and their families. Activities include: creating and supporting women’s self-help groups with training and access to (financial) resources and vocational skills training for girls.
2. Transforming social norms and traditional practices: mobilising and supporting communities, including boys, men, women, and leaders to promote girls’ rights and gender equity, to achieve gender equity in education, decision-making, and access to services. Activities include: Raising awareness of parents/ guardians, engaging boys and men, through seminars/workshops with local authorities, political and religious leaders, community events, (social) media programmes and messages, and improving parenting skills.
3. Creating an enabling legal and policy environment on preventing child marriage: supporting traditional leaders and (local) authorities to enforce national policies on preventing child marriage. Activities include: Local and national campaigns, setting up child protection committees, targeted lobby and advocacy activities with local and national authorities, and strengthening of child safeguarding networks.
- Direct beneficiaries
- 4000 girls (aged 12-18)
- 500 teachers & health workers
- 10 government representatives
- Indirect beneficiaries
- 10.000 young people (aged 12-18)
- 50 primary and secondary schools
- 12 local health services
- 1000 parents
- 500 teachers
- 150 civil society members
- 100 provincial government members/politicians/policy makers/ law enforcers