India is home to the largest number of child brides in the world. Unicef statistics estimate that 47% of girls in India are married before 18.
Lack of opportunities to go to school, gain skills and follow their ambitions put girls at risk of child marriage. “We have spent most of our lives in the shadows,” says Kiran, 17, from Jharkand.
Inequality causes early marriages
Expectations about the role of girls and women also force them into marriage. In many communities, girls are seen as the property of their husband and are expected to play the stereotypical roles of wives and mothers. The money families receive for marrying their daughters off also contributes to these statistics.
Join the movement for girls' rights In response to the inequality facing girls, Plan International set up adolescent girls’ clubs in Jharkand. These clubs provide safe spaces for girls to share their thoughts and engage with their peers on issues they face. They also receive training on how to tackle these problems.
Many girls from the clubs identified child marriage as a key factor that holds them back. Kiran and her friends from the girls’ club were determined to put an end to this issue and began advocating within their community, calling for an end to child marriage. They have since become role models, demonstrating that change is possible.
Standing up for equality
Through their work, Kiran and her fellow activists came across a 16-year-old girl who was removed from school and due to be married against her will. They approached the girl’s parents who refused to listen, even forbidding them from visiting their daughter.
This is only the beginning
The girls then informed a local government official about the proposed marriage who took immediate action to stop the wedding. The girl’s family received support from the government official and the girls’ group, leading them to send their daughter back to school.
Following the success of Kiran and her friends, village elders announced that they would not allow any more child marriages in their community.
Through their actions, Kiran and the girls’ group have prevented over 900 girls in their community from getting married as children, giving them the ability to make key decisions about their sexual health and well-being. “This is only the beginning,” says Kiran.