Child Marriage and Dowry in Nepal
While going through the literature, panellists and audiences on child marriage and dowry conference at Kathmandu, March 18, 2016, organized by Child Marriage and Dowry Eradication, National Campaign, Nepal, I deeply hurt and found gap in understanding the concepts. Indeed, it demands inter- sectional understanding and inferential way forward to get results on time. Here is my stake regarding child marriage and dowry.
1. Biased in Analysis and Program: the literature, activists, and all are claiming that the child marriage and dowry exist in eastern Terai mostly. It is really not true. As diverse culture and tradition of Nepal, the child marriage and dory is practising across country. Unfortunately, the western Nepal doesn’t prioritize for the state and non-state actors for research and work. One size doesn’t fit to all, the similar kinds of analysis and same forms of activities and strategies doesn’t fit to all caste, regions, religions and all to abolish child marriage and dowry. In over 20 years’ career, I have travelled 6o districts of Nepal and it is prevalent everywhere in various degrees. As result, girls are suffering from poor physical and mental illness, deprivation from opportunities such as education, work etc, low status of women in all sectors and levels, encountered with various forms of violence including fire, acid attack, rape and death.
2. Where is 11 years of girl’s life: No doubt that the child marriage and dowry is everyone’s business and affected to women and men and girls and boys but girls and women are suffering from multi-folds of issues throughout their life. The child marriage is started about after12 years now a day. Sadly, the state and non-state actors forget the 11 years of girl’s life which is very crucial for her nutrition, health, education and preparation for menstrual health hygiene and so on. More importantly, the culture or socialization during childhood is very important to pull towards house/family or bonding with maternal house/ family and dreaming for future. For instance, in Jumla, a 7 years’ boy gets full dadu (a material which is used for putting out the stuffs like scoop) of milk or meat whereas 13 years’ daughter no or gets little milk and meat. In other hands, her brother, mother, grandparents are constantly saying to her, you should go other’s house, shut up, this property not for you, I am giving this food, sending good (private) school because he (son) would take care of me during old age where as you went to husband’s house. That kinds of conversations, girl grows with feeling of low status, confidence and insecure for her future gradually. In others words, these are the pushing factors for child marriage. The nature of dialect is bit different but the similar story at Janakpur, Morang, Jhapa and everywhere. Meantime, girls are growing or puberty starts. As results they are pulled by the opposite sex. They don’t see any consequences for future at all, only see the fun, entertainment, roaming new places etc. In many rural areas no matter whether it is Jumla or Parsa, girls keep on watching the Indian serials which also encourage for same. Even they don’t know about their bodily changes and not thinking about the immaturity for sex and baby. To cut the story short, girls like to elope in urban and many rural areas on their choice where the parents don’t like to get her marriage. As defined by WHO, they are not position for making choice because considered as child. Thus the culture, childhood is important to build her as physically, mentally strong and enhanced her negotiation and bargaining capacity of herself, family and community. Principally, school is the second home of each child after home. Though many girls are out of school and government has program on education for all in (progress. But the school is not creating an enabling environment for the children specially girls). The school hasn’t have female teachers, gender responsive male teachers, no water and toilet for MHM and rampant of sexual abuses and exploitation or school is not safe at all. Thus, school and home is pushing out the girls and the age, romance are pulling them out.
3. Recognizing the sex: the state and non-state actors often forget the point to hit the hammer for abolishing child marriage and dowry. What would be reflection of the immediate parents when they first recognize sex of their child. Mostly, they considered that daughter is burden for responsibility for rearing, schooling, wedding etc and son is considered as diamond regardless the class, education, region, religion, activism etc. Each action or behaviour of an individual is directly contributing either for peace or conflict or empowering their children or disempowering children but merely not recognized by the parents at large in Nepal.
4. Gaps in campaign: Often the activities are more focused on awareness raising, policy advocacy. These activities are also important but the activities should reach out to the girls and parents who have baby girls. The activities should focus on pulling and pushing factors which designated for positive actions/results rather inputs.
1. Empower girls:the girls should educate or mentor in a ways that they denied early marriage and dowry by themselves. They have to challenge to their parents and societal norms at large.
2. Empower parents by providing livelihood options: The parents who scared from their poverty for education and caring of girls, their confidence will have enhanced from livelihood opportunities. The livelihood activities should in full picture rather giving pieces of support. It should be interest and skills of parents and compatible with demands of markets.
3. Ensure school for safety, confidentiality, respect and quality education (anti- sexual abuse and exploitation policy): it has sets of activities, I don’t like to discuss details here. In short, school should hold children.
4. Mobilize REAL boys, men and political leaders: Without knowing the theoretical base of advocacy, rights and all, many boys, men and political leaders are doing outstanding performance to eliminate child marriage and dowry. Such people should be hero and take leadership of the campaign.
5. Celebration of real success: The campaign should reach the bottom or ground to extract the successful stories who speak, stand and take action against child marriage and dowry. The successful stories suggest to capture few questions such as how they overcome with social stigma, what is their battles, how they determined to share property equally etc. Listening same stories, same people is so discouraging. I shared my story while I spoke. My parents were poor, illiterate and living in rural village of Chitwan in 42 years back. My parents transfer the culture of value of education so we all went to school and have good positions at this moment. They never pushed to have marriage as ours neighbours done. I am 42 years by certificate, I never married woman and I am working 100 % full time volunteer for organization called Action Works Nepal. My late mom and dad often worried about me when I was about 25 for my marriage but my negotiation power increased due to having education, property (dad allocated the piece of land to all 5 daughters, son, wife and himself 20 years ago while Nepal hadn’t have policy on it). Thus the bargaining or negotiation capacity is learned from education, property and equal behaviour from home. More importantly, the culture is human made so we can change according to our needs and rights. Now, in my community and family, girls are getting property from their parents.
6. Provision of incentives: The campaign should lobby with government to provide incentive to parents, girls and boys who defend the child marriage and dowry like scholarship or vocational trainings or placement of jobs etc. in order to speaking up or breaking the social norms at parental and girls/boys levels.
7. Research, documentation and dissemination: the multi method research should be place in consideration of national diversity in order to understand the underlying causes of child marriage and dowry and to redress it.
8. Pressurize for law enforcement: Who will take care of if any girl or boy or parent like to complain the case of child marriage and dowry. Merely none of the stakeholders particularly political leaders are not support in this regards. The policies on violence against women and girls are more focus on physical violence, trafficking, slavery but not such issues. The use of facebook and mobile encourage to use it for raising their voice, enlarge their campaign and prompt response system in case of forced marriage or any other violence associated with it. Nepali community failed to enjoy with technology and usually confined with negative outcomes. Nepal has 68 % mountains so we encourage to make itlization (use of IT as much as possible in daily life of rural people) for progressive development.
Both child marriage and dowry are political issues and the outcome of gender discrimination, inequality, patriarchal mind-set of actors that fuelled by poverty, conflict, disasters and other human made disasters thus need proactive actions to overcome these issues.
|Participants of Program|
|An evidence of mine, a member of panellist, I don#t find the photo of mine at their facebook page so I posted it|