When Amrita was just 16 years old, her mother told her that a family would come and make her a marriage proposal. The ninth grader couldn't concentrate at school as she was familiar with her village’s tradition of marrying away girls before they turn twenty.
Amrita feared that her parents might agree with the proposal under pressure from their community. When she returned home from school she made it clear to her parents: “I won’t marry unless I am 20 under any circumstances. Please send away the family that is coming to see me tonight.” She pleaded with her mother to stop the wedding.
The prospective groom arrived with his family after Amrita had gone to bed. Due to her stance against the marriage, Amrita’s parents declined the marriage proposal despite the family promising affluent life for their daughter as the boy was going abroad for work.
“My daughter has learned at the life skills learning programme that getting married and giving birth to children before they turn 20 is risky, so she was not ready to accept the proposal and declined it.” Amrita’s mother Gori said. However, there are hundreds of girls across Nepal who cannot make the same choices.
“I did not want to get married before completing my education,” Amrita said, “I feel like I have got a new life.” The news of the cancellation of her marriage travelled throughout her village and she earned praise for her courage.
Amrita has since shared her experiences at a national conference on girls’ education held in Kathmandu. She has continued with her studies and she is currently in the 11th grade. She wants to be a teacher to educate underprivileged children in her village.
While at highschool, Amrita has participated in the Better Life Options programme operated in her village under the Girl Power Project. She has learned the disadvantages of child marriage and knew that marriage before 20 will affect her physical health, hampers education and creates problems with reproductive health.
Apart from her studies, Amrita is also a member of the Young Women's Organisation where she shares the knowledge she has gained on the importance of educating girls with members of her community.
She wants to stop human trafficking with false promises of marriages and better employment opportunities abroad. “Due to the lack of awareness, parents marry their daughter to men who say they will make a fortune abroad,” she said. “We have to bring an end to this,” Amrita explains.
Amrita says she will only marry after graduating from college and wants to marry an educated man. She currently juggles her studies, work and domestic chores and her parents are proud of her. “After returning from classes in the morning, she helps me at home, teaches her siblings, works in the field and later educates the neighbours about reproductive health,” her mother said.
Besides social work, Amrita also manages financial aspects of her family. Her father Thag Bahadur is a carpenter, her mother is a housewife and her elder brother works at home. She has encouraged them to save and encouraged her mother to join a saving group.
Child marriage is a common problem in Nepal's rural areas. About 50 percent marriages take place before youth turn 18 due to a lack of awareness, poverty and weak enforcement of child marriage legislation.
Plan International is supporting girls and boys to continue their education and to find employment so they are not reliant on marriage as a source of economic well-being.