Usha Yadav & Sima Kurmi

The right to be a child: An ongoing fight

 – Through education and increased awareness, the system is slowly changing, says Usha Yadav, 19.

Usha Yadav, 19, and her friend Sima Kurmi, 20, were both forced to leave school when they were married off at an early age. Exposed to the traditional structures that still rule the south-eastern part of the Kapilvastu district, they had few alternatives growing up. However, after their meetings with IM’s partner organisation SSDC they now both believe in a change for future generations.

Child marriage
Usha and Sima both grew up in Nandanagar, a community plagued by poverty, illiteracy and child marriage. Despite child marriage being banned by the law, it is still a common practice in the rural areas of Nepal. This occurrence is a result of lacking awareness and traditional attitudes, but also the dowry system that informs the custom and is based on the notion that the girl’s family must provide the boy’s family with gifts before the wedding.

Dowry system
To Usha, the dowry entailed a golden necklace, one buffalo and 70.000 rs. However, if Usha had been older and thus better educated, the amount would have been substantially bigger. This system consequently causes poor families to deprioritize girls’ education and marry them of young.

Changing hearts and minds
This traditional system is difficult to break, but there is a way. In 2015, IM teamed up with local partner SSDC. Together they have been working tirelessly with advocacy in order to create a more equal and sustainable community, free from discrimination and child marriage.  To reach the desired change, SSDC has established women’s and community groups for economic, social and cultural inclusion. Through the meetings conducted in these groups, the awareness on women’s and children’s rights has increased, especially in regard to education.

Eyes set on a brighter future
The change takes time, but it is moving in the right direction. Usha and Sima have both gained a better understanding of their own circumstances, and they both testify that attitudes towards child marriage have begun to change. Usha is now a member of a Girl’s Education Advocacy Group (GEAG), fighting for education since she is convinced that better awareness is the way to go.

Through education and increased awareness, the system is slowly changing, she says confidently.

With the emergence of a new generation we are now beginning to see the result of advocacy work, and how traditional structures such as child marriage is slowly phased out. Listening to Usha and Sima the future seems bright, when asked if they are going to marry of their children young their answers could not be clearer;

– No. They are going to stay in school and get an education.

By: Anna Lindhe, IM Intern.
September 2018

Usha Yadav, 19 & Sima Kurmi, 20.
(Photo by: Anna Lindhe, IM)