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34% Of Children Still Get Married Early In Koraput, Odisha

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Child marriage violates every human right to which a child is entitled. Girls and boys who are married early are most likely to drop out of school and discontinue formal education. They are also likely to be pushed into early childbearing, which increases the risk of maternal mortality, morbidity and infant death, and malnutrition for the mother and child.

The state of Odisha ranks 13th among states with 21.3% child marriages – highest reported in the district of Malkangiri, i.e. 39.3% and Koraput places itself in the red zone with a total of 34.7% child marriage. In terms of the locality, child marriages are more rapidly taking place in rural, hard to reach and semi-urban areas. It’s close to 1% in the urban area compared to 34% in the rural area of Koraput.

What Has Been Done To Curb It?

The Women and Child Welfare department and Mission Shakti department of the Government of Odisha with the support of UNICEF and Action Aid provide technical support to reduce child marriage rate in the districts with high child marriage rates. The development partners help the district administration to strengthen the district task force aiming at joint action against child marriage.

Like early marriage, early pregnancy and repetitive pregnancy without maintaining gaps are very common in the village, and the reason behind these is also patriarchal, as people prefer having a boy child over a girl child. Representational image.

In a meeting on 14 October 2019, the DM and Collector of Koraput launched a flagship initiative on a campaign mode to reduce child marriage in the district. In the later phase, with the support of Action Aid, they developed a year-long awareness plan with detailed quarterly implementation and monitoring strategies.

The campaign has been designed to eradicate child marriage from the district entirely. It will also include activities such as training, events, outreach activities, media liaison and public relation strategies.

The initiative has been named as Aparajita: A Campaign to End Child Marriage in the district. Aparajita means a girl who is never defeated to the multifarious pressures/male-dominated socio-cultural and physical hegemony to submit to early marriage.

Objectives Of The Campaign:

  • To empower children to be able to respond and prevent child marriage.
  • To influence positive change in communities’ beliefs and social norms that drive child marriage.
  • To accelerate access to adolescents, particularly girls, to quality education, reproductive health services and other opportunities.
  • To ensure national laws, policy frameworks, and mechanisms related to ending child marriage are in place and effectively implemented.
  • Advocate for women as community leaders.
  • To make convergence campaign plan with all the line departments to engage all the stakeholders.

The campaign was launched on the eve of Children’s day, thereby symbolizing the importance of child rights and dignity. The campaign comes with a song which was recorded and spread in local languages in Koraput district. The plan is such that all the concerned stakeholders have to assist for 100 hours in three months with checks and balances at every stage to ensure implementation.

Aparajita rally against child marriage

Five adolescents who have said no to their marriage were declared as the Aparajita brand ambassadors and were felicitated during PARAB 2019. Further, three girls were given ₹5000. The district administration also announced they would provide a scholarship amount for the higher education of the campaign brand ambassadors.

What More?

This campaign covers the whole of Koraput district and has plans to involve multi-level governance systems. Anganwadi workers have also pledged to stop child marriage. The campaign further aims to involve school teaches and students to fight against child marriage. Under the campaign, district administration started the “Mu Paribi” program to engage the adolescent boys and girls twice in a month.

This campaign was selected for the Soch award and was the runners up. It was also nominated for Prime Minister Awards for Excellence in Public Administration 2020. With its success, child marriage can be completely eradicated from Koraput, and girls can receive an education.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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