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Zero tolerance for child marriage

In Dadeldhura, a UNFPA-supported district, priests, traditional healers and astrologers launch an action plan to tackle child marriage

Priests, astrologers and traditional healers in Dadeldhura district have committed to adopt zero tolerance towards child marriage. Such a solemn promise came at the end of a district level training jointly organized by the Women and Children Office, Dadeldhura, and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, by unveiling an action plan.

A total of 35 priests, astrologers and traditional healers from 18 VDCs (out of 20) of the district attended the training on December 7-8. The training was organized to orient them on the overall situation of child marriage in Dadeldhura including the continuum of harms, causes and legal provisions. Dadeldhura is one among 18 districts in Nepal directly supported by UNFPA.

As UNFPA pushes for a world free of violence for all women and girls, engaging influential faith-inspired leaders to prevent harmful practices including child marriage remains a key strategy for the UN agency in Nepal.

Faith-based leaders can not only act as gatekeepers, but given their influence at community level can also be enablers and change-makers if convinced of the need for change.

The four-point action plan includes what activities the trained priests, traditional healers and astrologers will carry out in their villages to prevent child marriage as well as how and by when they will achieve the desired results. The first activity they have pledged is holding group discussions in tea shops.

In the second and third phases, they will discuss ways to prevent child marriage with members of School Management Committees and teachers as well as exchange information with key stakeholders.

Similarly, they have committed to bring to the fore the cases of child marriage that they come across, inform police accordingly and pressurize the authorities concerned to bring the perpetrators to justice.

According to the 2011 Census, out of a total 38,981 females and 27,481 males married in Dadeldhura, 65.75 % (85.53 % females and 45.96 % males) are married before 20 and a large number (59.15 % females and 41.21 % males) between 15-19.

In Nepal, 41 percent of women aged 20 to 24 are married before they turn 18. The country has the third highest child marriage prevalence in South Asia. Child marriage occurs more frequently among girls who are the least educated, poorest and living in rural areas.