When Amarnath Yadav, 27, was cramming for his final year examination of Bachelor's degree, his mind drifted towards what he would do after the college. Being a student of education, he was expected to be a teacher. But he wanted to explore more. It was during those idling and anxious hours before the exam that he came across a vacancy announcement in the local newspaper. Siddarth Samudayik Samaj, an NGO based in Rupandehi wanted some Social Mobilisers for the upcoming project that aimed to address the underlying causes of child marriage.
When Amarnath stumbled over the word 'child marriage' he felt a pang of pain inside. His mind glided down memory lane and stopped at that dark and noisy night of two decades back, when he - half asleep and half awake in his father's lap - was performing the rituals that were to shape the rest of his life.
Amarnath was a child groom himself. He continued his study and it was only after coming to the nearby town of Butwal for his higher studies that he realised he was so different from others. When other young people would go around, have fun and make friends, Amarnath would stay at his rented room and bury his nose in books so that he does not let his parents and parents-in-law down. Their dream was to see him attain the highest degree possible in education. While being weighed down by the expectations and love poured upon him, he thought of Pramila, his wife, who was never sent to school.
Pramila was two years younger than Amarnath. As he remembers - with a red furrow of vermillion powder in the partings of her hair, a bright nose stud and veiling her hairdo with the edge of her Sharee - Pramila goes about her chores solemnly. Anger often consumed him that he would have to spend his life with a person who never went to school. There were educated men in the village who left their child bride because they were illiterate. But Amarnath mustered the courage to right the wrong they had both experienced by doing his best to balance the unequal relationship between him and his wife.
Rather than searching for another job in the town, Amarnath thought, this job as a social mobiliser for a child marriage project would bring him closer to his home, to his wife, to his kids, to his true self. When he applied for the job he was not very confident that he would get it, but when he was shortlisted for the interview his happiness knew no bound.
CARE’s Tipping Point project to address the causes of child marriage has become the tipping point of his own life. Amarnath has returned back to his village from the town. When he is not working with the people of his community to help them understand the gross consequences of child marriage, he helps his wife to learn alphabets, to wash clothes and to tend the children. When elders in the family and community people talked about his younger sister’s marriage, Amarnath strongly opposed the idea and challenged them that he would take responsibility if there was any harm caused by delaying their marriage.
A happy couple with 4 -year old and 4 -month old children, Pramila and Amarnath have decided not to bear any more young children. It takes champions like Amarnath, to make sure life inflicts no more harm upon those women married young like Pramila.
In the time it has taken to read this article 35 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds
Avinashi Paudel is the advocacy and communications officer at CARE Nepal on the Tipping Point project. The Tipping Point initiative is addressing child marriage through a dynamic process of innovation, insight (analysis and learning), and influence through advocacy. With the generous support of The Kendeda Fund, and in partnership with Siddhartha Samudayik Samaj (SSS), the Dalit Social Development Center (DSDC), JASHIS, and the Association for Slum Dwellers (ASD), the project focuses on facilitating and learning from innovative strategies to influence change-makers and root causes of child marriage in Nepal and Bangladesh, two child marriage hotspots. Read more about it at www.care.org/tippingpoint