Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18, marking the start of their lives as wives and mothers well before they are...
Doing No More Harm
Doing No More Harm
When Amarnath Yadav, 27, was mugging up for his final year bachelor's degree examination, his mind drifted towards what he would do after college. Being a student of the education stream, he was expected to be a teacher, but he wanted to explore more. It was during those idling and anxious hours before the exam that he came across a vacancy announcement in the local newspaper. Siddarth Samudayik Samaj, an NGO based in Rupandehi district, wanted some social mobilizers for an upcoming project that aimed to address the underlying causes of child marriage in partnership with CARE Nepal.
When Amarnath Yadav stumbled over the word “child marriage,” he felt a pang of pain inside. His mind glided down memory lane and stopped at that dark and noisy midnight of two decades back, when he- half asleep and half-awake in his father’s lap- was performing the rituals that were to shape the rest of his life. Amarnath was a child groom. After the wedding, his child bride stayed with her parents for some years. She never went to school. “None bothered about her education whereas I went to school as usual,” sighed Amarnath.
He continued his study, and it was only after coming to the nearby town Butwal for higher studies that he realized he was so different from others, that he was married so young. The majority of his college mates were not married. When other young people would go around, have fun and make friends, Amarnath would stay at his rented room and bury his nose in books so he would not let down his parents and parents-in-law, whose dream was to see him attaining the highest degree possible in education. While being weighed down by the expectations and love poured upon him, he thought of Pramila, his wife, who had already become a mother of two.
Pramila was only two years younger than Amarnath. She goes about her chores solemnly, with a red furrow of vermillion powder in the partings of her hair, a bright nose stud and veiling her hairdo with the edge of her sari. Oftentimes anger consumed Amarnath that he would have to spend his life with a person who never went to school. There were educated men in the village who left their child brides because they were illiterate. But Amarnath mustered up the courage to right the wrong of his family by giving his best to equilibrate the seemingly unequal relationship between him and his wife.
Rather than searching for another job in the town, Amarnath thought this job as a social mobilizer for a child marriage project would bring him closer to his home, to his wife, to his kids, to his true self. When he applied for the job, he was not very confident about getting it. He neither had years of experience nor had known anyone from the organization. But when he was shortlisted for the interview, his happiness knew no bound. “We hired Amarnath for the job of social mobilization because he himself is the survivor of child marriage and the most eligible person to be the champion,” shares proud Mina Thapa, President of Siddhartha Samudayik Samaj. The NGO was selected as a collaborating partner of CARE Nepal with a thorough and fair process of assessment. Among the eight social mobilizers Siddarth Samudayik Samaj hired for the Aba Mero Palo/Tipping Point project, four were married as children and four came from a child marriage prone area or community. “They can completely feel the pain of child marriage and are able to create community-driven and innovative ways to work for child marriage,” added Thapa in a reflection meeting, cherishing the passionate participation of social mobilizers in each step of the intervention.
The Tipping Point project has become the real tipping point of Amarnath’s life. These days, Amarnath has returned to his village from town. When he is not working with the people of his community to make them understand the gross consequences of child marriage and find sustainable solutions for delaying marriage, he helps his wife learn the alphabet, washes clothes and tends to their children. When elders in the family and community people talked about his younger sibling's marriage, Amarnath strongly opposed the idea and challenged them that he would take the responsibility if there happens to be any harm caused by delaying their marriage. When asked if she regrets not being sent to school, Pramila answers with a smile, “No use raking over the past, it was the custom of that time not to send girls to school. I am happy that all my younger siblings in my maternal home are sent to school. I am glad I am wife to such an educated and noble husband even if I was never sent to school.” She is glad that Amarnath has come home after finishing college like a bird that comes home in the evening unlike many husbands who never came back to their illiterate wives.
A happy couple with a four-year-old child and a five-month-old baby, together they have decided not to bear any more young ones, which is a rare phenomenon in their community. It takes champions like Amarnath to make sure life inflicts no more harm upon those women married young like Pramila.