Adolescent girls from different parts of Odisha came forward to interact with a team of representatives from various countries on their journey as champions to end child marriage in the State.
As many as twenty girls interacted with international visitors in Bhubaneswar and shared their intriguing stories of courage and determination with many of them having resisted the pressure from families to get married at an early age.
The team comprised Isabelle Solon Helal, Deputy Director, Global Affairs Canada, Ali Hendy, Child Protection and Child Marriage Lead, UK (FCDO), Ritika Dhall, Assistant Director, Gender Equality, Norad, Beate Gabrielsen, Head of Political Section, Norway, Mieke Vogels, Senior Policy Advisor SRHR, Netherlands Embass and Ute Scholz, President, Zonta International who, together with senior representatives of UNCEF and UNFPA as part of the steering committee of the Global Programme to End Child Marriage (GPECM) were part of the interaction.
The Global Programme promotes the rights of adolescent girls to avert child/early/forced marriage and pregnancy and enables them to achieve their aspirations through education and alternative pathways. It supports households in demonstrating positive attitudes, empowers girls to direct their own futures, and strengthens the services that allow them to do so.
The adolescent girls shared their stories of courage and journey as peer leaders and also asked questions to the visitors.
“My parents wanted me to get married when I was 15-years-old. I was scared of the consequences if I refused. But I spoke to Anganwadi didi and together with district administration officials, they convinced my parents not to go ahead with the marriage. They helped me to enrol in the Industrial Training Institute where I learnt tailoring. Today I earn Rs 8,000 a month and proudly support my family,” said Malati Pujari from Nabarangpur.
Launched in 2016 the Global Programme to End Child Marriage (GPECM) covers 12 countries – Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia. It is the first United Nations-led joint initiative designed with a focus on promoting the rights of adolescents to delay marriage, supporting adolescents to realize their rights by engaging with communities, and strengthening systems that deliver critical services to adolescents, including health and education.
In Odisha UNICEF and UNFPA, through support from GPECM, work across all 30 districts to promote life skills for adolescents, improve overall well-being including sexual and reproductive health and build more capacity within the government systems to prevent child marriage and build linkages to skilling and livelihood opportunities. The programme also promotes positive behaviour changes and social norms to empower girls and provide equal opportunities to girls and boys.