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One Step Forward

15-year-old Pramila Munda, who is trained as a peer educator says her dramatic transformation is thanks to lessons learned in Sambhav, an adolescent empowerment programme in Jharkhand. Pramila leads an adolescent group for girls in Gauchandrapur village of Baharagora block in East Singhbhum district. This is one of the 1614 adolescent groups in the district supported by UNICEF and the Government of Jharkhand in collaboration with local NGOs under the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) national scheme.

The 15 year-old girl recalls, “My parents did not allow me to speak with others especially with boys. They also wished to marry me off. Now I can raise my voice against all these. Hats off to Sambhav!”According to a feedback from adolescents, majority of parents in the tribal community with daughters believe that girls get spoiled and involved in relationships if they socialize with boys and make friends.

 

In Jharkhand, as in several other states girls are likely to get married at the age of 15/16 years. At the age of 14 years Pramila’s parents decided to give her hand in marriage as they had found a suitable groom for her. Earlier, she hesitated to share or talk to her parents about anything concerning her life however, through the caring support network of peers and mentors, Pramila found her voice and is now more self-assured and confident. She managed to convince her parents to allow her to complete her education first “Child marriage exists in the village. But now we have an improved understanding and we talk to our parents about the problems it causes. Over the last two years, we’ve also helped to prevent child marriages,” the girl adds with obvious delight. . She aspires to become a police officer and become a role model in society.

 

Last year when Pramila discovered that a neighbor was arranging the marriage of his 13-year-old daughter, Sangita to a groom, who was above 24 years in age, she alerted other members of the adolescent group and they decided to convince the girl’s parents to delay the marriage. At the time, Pramila was associated with the Sambhav program wherein she learnt about the ill effects of child marriage. The next day Pramila and her friends went to the girl’s house wherein they discovered the prospective groom and his family who were visiting, to discuss the marriage. The girl’s family discouraged Pramila from going in front of the groom and his family saying that she was prettier looking than the bride and so the groom may go on to choose her for marriage in place of the girl. When Pramila questioned the  girl whether she was interested in getting married, she responded saying that she was not sure and that if the groom liked her and if her parents insisted, she would get married as she had no other choice. Pramila and few of her group members went on to counsel the girl and her parents, “This is not the right age for marriage as early marriage is a root cause of many problems. Marrying early will stop your schooling which is necessary for your personal development. She would have to get married and move to her husband’s house where she will take care of the household and family responsibilities. Early marriage places adolescents at greater health risks, one of the greatest being early pregnancy and childbirth.” In spite of all the resistance, Pramila went on to question the groom asking him he does for a living and why he wants to marry an underage girl. She received a lot of flak from the villagers present and the groom and his family.

 

Pramila was dejected as the bride’s parents refused to listen. She became restless as the wedding day drew closer. “I don’t understand why girls are considered as burdens to their families. This is not right, it must change,” she says.

 

The next day Pramila and her group informed the Panchayat head (village council) who managed to convince Sangeeta’s parents to stop the marriage.

 

Pramila, who belongs to a tribal community, has received training as a peer educator to run sessions on life skills, rights and entitlements, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, menstrual hygiene and management etc. The aim is to empower the most marginalized adolescent girls to make informed choices, especially those who are at risk of child marriage or are already married.With 15 days of games and activities interspersed with knowledge on various issues, the young woman learns how to motivate and instruct girls in her own village. Then she runs hour-long meetings twice a month, passing on this knowledge and encouraging their dreams.

“Each workshop, each activity in which we par­ticipate as young women is an opportunity for personal growth and for helping to make people recognize the leadership of young women.”Through engaged discussion and exposure to new ways of thinking, the girls work on increasing their self-awareness and developing the confidence to stand up to nega­tive influences.

 

 

 

“My parents did not allow me to speak with others especially with boys. They also wished to marry me off. Now I can raise my voice against all these. Hats off to Sambhav”

– Pramila Munda, Peer Educator, Jharkhand

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