Not For My Daughter
A Nepali woman talks about how she got married at 12--how she made sure that her daughter did not have to.
The fragrance of the monsoon rain soaked earth and the sight of quivering slender saplings of paddy reminded Pramila Pasi of her maternal home and she hurried back to her mother's house—where July was the busiest time—the month of planting rice.
“And when are you going back to your husband's house?” I asked her.
'I won't go back before the rice is reaped', said Pramila, who was cheerfully moving about her mother's house. With her sparkling eyes and charming smile, it does not take long for an outsider to notice that there is something unique about her. She is one of a handfuls of girls in her entire village who were married after 20 and with a different kind of dowry. “There was no any kind of cash transaction made in my wedding, my parents gave my father- in- law a buffalo as a gift from a farmer's family to another,” said Pramila who got married in April 2014, after turning 22. Contrary to popular belief, Pramila being older did not make her dowry go up.
"There is a lot of benefit of getting married after 20. You can think for yourself and your family, and you do not have to live in fear" shares Pramila with all the pride of being a rare adult bride of her community.
It wasn’t a stroke of sheer luck that she was married older. It was a matter of conscious—even rebellious—perseverance from her mother, Shankarawati Pasi,that delayed Pramila's wedding. She didn’t want the same fate for her daughter that she had experienced.
Shankarawati was a child bride, married at the age of 12 to a 28 year old man. She has undergone pain and suffering that cannot be expressed through words. "I was so naive at that time that I had no idea what it meant to be married, what one had to do after being married—let alone how to behave with the in-laws," remembers Shankarawati from her difficult days as a child bride.
Shankarawati gave birth to her first child when she was 15. Unfortunately, the child died in a few months, leaving the family in grief. After that, she gave birth to 11 children in a row. The oldest died of typhoid at the age of 6. Shankarawati's husband had to go to work in the landlord's field to get paid a few kilos of rice a day. "We had too many mouths to feed in the house, everyone was suffering from malnutrition and mild depression," said Shankarawati, who finally realized that the source of her suffering was nothing other than the child marriage.
She saw that early pregnancy triggered by child marriage and the burden of large families clearly aggravated the already difficult situation of everyone in the village. Once she realized this, Shankarawati tried her best to defer all of her children's marriage. Pramila is Shakarawati's youngest daughter, and apple of her eye, so she was especially determined to save her from child marriage.
Shankarawati did not have an easy time taking a stand against her relatives and villagers to decide not to marry her daughter young. "But now, everything is alright, villagers trust me even to solve their problems.”
Shankarawati won a battle to change her daughter’s life. So what does Pramila want for her children? Pramila, regrets that she had to stop her studies after 5th grade because there was no school for the higher classes in her village.
"I will sell whatever I have, even my house, to send my children to school" said Pramila with determination, proving that one delayed marriage opens a door of prosperity to the generations to come.
About the Program: The Tipping Point initiative is addressing child marriage through a dynamic process of innovation, insight (analysis and learning), and influence through advocacy. With the generous support of The Kendeda Fund, and in partnership with Siddhartha Samudayik Samaj (SSS), the Dalit Social Development Center (DSDC), JASHIS, and the Association for Slum Dwellers (ASD), the project focuses on facilitating and learning from innovative strategies to influence change-makers and root causes of child marriage in Nepal and Bangladesh, two child marriage hotspots. Read more about it at www.care.org/tippingpoint. You can also look for more in our series of what causes child marriage here.
About the Authors: Avinashi Paudel [left] is the advocacy and communications officer at CARE Nepal on the Tipping Point project. Bishram Kori [right] is a social mobilizer from the Dalit Social Development Center (DSDC)—one of CARE’s partners in Nepal on the Tipping Point.