Reflecting on these meetings over the last couple of weeks, a number of issues and points have stuck in my mind.
'Our goal cannot only be about ending child marriage, it is also equally important to ensure that children and young people live a life free from fear', according to development economist Dr Shiva Kumar. Young couples should enter into marriage freely and young women, in particular, should find the new household welcoming & safe.
Asia Director of ICRW, Dr Ravi Verma challenged us to think more deeply about the centrality of marriage; the way in which families, communities and children themselves think about girls’ pathways through life. Strategies to promote later marriage and delayed childbearing need to present positive alternatives which put girls’ wishes and aspirations at centre stage; whilst working with families & communities, particularly with men & boys, to address concerns about safety, poverty, valuing girls, towards building & ensuring an enabling environment.
The chief guest at the Delhi event, the Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Ms Stuti Kacker highlighted the importance of having state and region specific information when it comes to the drivers of early marriage and the cultural rituals, traditions and festivities reinforcing child marriage.
The need for local information was also driven home in the Jaipur meeting where we highlighted the findings that having an older brother makes early marriage more likely for a younger sister in Andra Pradesh, but having an older sister makes early marriage less likely, but the baseline findings from Rajasthan found that having an older sister also increased the likelihood of child marriage for younger girls; We’d be interested to find out if an age gap between siblings would be relevant.
Dr Sushma Dureja, the Deputy Commissioner for Adolescent Health in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, who chaired the session on evidence sharing, mentioning the RKSK (National Adolescent Health Programme) admitted that although India has great policies, to implement effectively, research findings need to be looked at more closely.