Laxmi, 20, first learnt about the disadvantages of child marriage through a children’s club network supported by Plan International in her community. So, when she was told by her parents that they wanted her to get married, she vowed to stop it.
Nepal has the third highest rate of child marriage in Asia with 37% of girls married before they are 18, and 10% married by 15. Girls, usually from the most vulnerable communities, are marrying in Nepal every day with devastating consequences. The legal age for marriage in Nepal is 20.
Child marriage threatens girls’ futures
Their childhoods are cut short and their education is often abandoned. Married children become parents too soon and girls face serious health consequences, including death, due to early pregnancy, as well as a heightened risk of domestic violence.
But Plan International is working to change this. Our 18+ programme is committed to ending child, early and forced marriage, by working with girls, communities and institutions to change traditional social norms and harmful practices.
We have to empower girls. If more girls are aware of their rights, their situation would be better.
Laxmi was 16 when her parents told her that they had found a boy they thought would be good for her. Shocked to hear this news, she immediately told her friends at the children’s club.
“If I had been married so young it would have been like suicide. I might get pregnant and giving birth wouldn’t be easy. It’s risky for my physical health and it wouldn’t be good for my mental health either. I would have had to obey my in-laws and my fate would depend on them. I would have felt like my life was dark and lonely.”
Stopping child marriages
At the children’s club, girls can meet regularly to discuss child rights, sexual and reproductive health and the negative aspects of child marriage. They also learn life skills to prepare them for adult life and take part in fun activities such as sports, theatre and play.
The club facilitators put Laxmi in touch with FORHEN, one of Plan International’s partners in Nepal, who helped Laxmi persuade her parents to stop her marriage at the last hour.
Grateful for her freedom, Laxmi wants to ensure that all girls have the same access to information and support that she did. “We have to empower girls. If more girls are aware of their rights, their situation would be better.”