Ending Child Marriage and Dowry: An Initiative by
Government of Bihar in technical collaboration with UNICEF
Promoting the value of girls and ensuring access to opportunities Patna/New Delhi, 4th October 2017: On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar launched a state-wide campaign to end child marriage and dowry in Bihar, a first of its kind. This campaign, in technical collaboration with UNICEF India, urges the people of Bihar to join hands and to take strong action against these social practices, to improve the lives of children and adolescents, and ensure their development and empowerment. Standing up to end child marriage and dowry, were three brave champion girls, Kajal Kumari, Rinki Kumari and Dhanwanti Kumari. In front of a 5,000-strong stakeholders, they shared their personal stories of anguish and triumph and how they broke the mould to claim their life with dignity. They urged people to raise their voice against these social practices. Over 20 million people took part in the oath taking ceremony to abstain from promoting or participating in practices across the state including PRI members, 38 district administration, government functionaries across the board and school children. The event was also attended by Deputy Chief Minister, Speaker of the House, Ministers of Education, Health, Panchayati Raj, Home, Rural Development, SC/ST Welfare including the Information and Public Relations. Addressing the occasion, CM Nitish Kumar said, “This social movement against child marriage and dowry system will show a new way to the whole country. By stopping child marriage, we can also reduce stunting and maternal mortality rate. If we want to see a developed Bihar, then we must create a society of equality and give our daughters an equal opportunity. We have to think about their progress and education, instead of marrying them at an early age.”
UNICEF India Representative, Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, present at the occasion, mentioned that “Parents and communities must see their daughters as assets – as individuals capable of standing on their feet and contributing to society, and not as burdens to be married in haste. This requires us to invest in daughters, as the Government of Bihar is doing. We have to ease the financial burden on parents so that girls complete their education. We must address the concerns of parents, engage with them in making change possible.”
Multi-media communication packages developed will enhance knowledge, generate visibility across 38 districts reaching 8400 Gram Panchayats. The next phase of the initiative will focus on capacity development of nearly 200,000 key functionaries from seven line departments on the issues of child marriage and dowry. Simultaneously, local groups with support from women’s groups, police and local administration will be activated to mobilse communities, monitor and report. In order to continue with the momentum, a State Action Plan with costing and monitoring mechanisms will be developed with key Ministries. A state task force chaired by the Chief Secretary with the key departments and District Task Forces will be established to roll out the State Plan of Action. Plans are underway to enhance the social protection measures for adolescent girls in Bihar and sustain the awareness and communication initiative on adolescent empowerment.
Launch of Child Marriage Campaign
Patna, 2 October 2017
- Shri Nitish Kumar, Hon’ble Chief Minister, Govt. of Bihar
- Shri Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, Chairperson, Bihar Assembly
- Shri Sushil Kumar Modi, Deputy Chief Minister, Govt. of Bihar
- Kumari Manju Verma, Minister, Dept. of Social Welfare
- All colleagues in the government,
- Members of the Civil Society Organizations
- All women, girls and boys – come from different parts of the state
- Everyone reached through the audio and video connection
It is indeed a privilege to be here with you today
This is my first time in Bihar where the leadership of the Honourable Chief Minister, Shri Nitish Kumar, supported by thousands of government officials, community leaders and workers, has significantly improved the lives of millions of children and women over the past decade.
The state of Bihar should be proud of all the progress achieved. Let me highlight just a few:
- The number of children being immunised has doubled in the past 10 yrs
- More infants are surviving – just last week we learnt the good news that the infant mortality has reduced from 42 per 1000 in 2013 to 38 in 2016
- Polio has been eradicated
- Child marriage has decreased significantly
- School enrolment and literacy has dramatically increased
These are impressive achievements. Now it is important that success not give way to complacency: it must inspire us to take stronger action in the interest of the 46 million children of Bihar.
I would like to share with you a few thoughts about our unfinished business, particularly with regard to the value of girls in our society, in Bihar:
- Recent data demonstrates that infant girls are at a much higher risk of dying than boys (for every 1000 live births it is 46 for girls and 31 for boys)
- Lakhs of girls and boys are lost in transition during adolescence. Of every 100 children who enrol in school, only 45 enter class XI. (Close to 25 Lakh children enrol every year)
- For girls this means an accelerated transition from childhood to parenthood – a traumatic and forced transition – 4 out of every 10 girls get married before the age of 18 years. Thousands of them even give birth before they turn 18.
We are here today at a new beginning we are here to renew our commitment to children in Bihar, especially girls. We are here to translate commitment into action.
Working together with the government and people of Bihar we will address two game changers that go hand-in-hand:
- First is that of postponing the age of marriage, especially for girls.
- The second is strengthening education and skill development opportunities forall The best way to prevent the scourge of child marriage and early pregnancy is to educate girls and boys, and equip them to realise their full potential as the human capital of Bihar.
We have been inspired by communities in the districts of Gaya, Vaishali, Nawada, Samastipur and Darbhanga who are empowering their adolescents. Community leaders and community workers who catalyse change in society, influencing people to abandon the harmful and adopt positive attitudes and behaviours. We know of exceptional community leaders in Bihar: we extend our full support to them.
The Women Development Corporation and partners have established vibrant adolescent groups and engaged with community leaders, reaching out to socially excluded communities – to change social norms related to child marriage, girls’ education and the value of girls.
We have seen how adolescent girls become change makers, some of them breaking the mould, to claim their rights and dignity and inspiring others to do the same.
Today’s initiative is yet another such example with action at the highest level generating momentum which is inspirational!
Honorable Chief Minister and all gathered here,
Permit me to share with you three ideals, three aspirations.
First, the rights of girls should not be perceived solely as the responsibility of girls and women. Men, play a crucial role in realising the equal rights of girls and boys. When girls have equal opportunities, the benefits percolate to the whole society– men and women, girls and boys.
Second, parents and communities must see their daughters as assets – as individuals capable of standing on their feet and contributing to society, AND not as burdens to be married in haste. This requires us to invest in daughters, as the Bihar government is doing. We have to ease the financial burden on parents so that girls complete their education. We must address the concerns of parents, engage with them in making change possible.
Third, every single one of us has a role to play. How many girls are there around us? In our home, in our neighbourhood, in our extended family? What can I do to empower the girls in my life to become equal citizens of Bihar, standing side by side with their brothers and contributing equally to the country?
Gandhi ji, one of the greatest leaders the world has seen, has said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” If we change how we see girls, the world would change – their world and our world.
Of this I am sure.
Bihar ki beti ut chali hai Samman ki Cycle par, Shiksha ke prahaar se ab
Toregi garibi aur soshan ka ku-chakraThis commitment, this momentum must be sustained… When it does, Bihar will successfully break the inter-generational transmission of poverty and malnutrition. Bihar will achieve its Seven Nishchay (seven resolutions).
So let’s re-affirm: Ek Shapath, Ek Nischay, Bihar ke Bacchon ke Liye