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Marriage No Child’s Play – Project ANANYA is Bal Raksha Bharat’s flagship project to reduce child marriage and improve the sexual and reproductive health status of girls and young women and advance their rights in this direction. Through this project, we are driving holistic change at grassroot level to tackle the high incidence of child marriage. The programme has a five-year run – 2016 to 2020 – and also seeks to empower girls with financial literacy and economic opportunities.

Programme Coverage
The Marriage No Child’s Play programme is being implemented in three states of India, the ones which record high percentage of girls getting married. Below is a snapshot of the geographic expanse of the project:

Rajasthan: 32 villages in 9 Gram Panchayats of Tonk district, 13 villages in 5 Gram Panchayats of Osian (Jodhpur district)

Bihar: 32 villages in 4 Gram Panchayats of Mohanpur (Gaya district), 9 villages in 4 Gram Panchayats of Riga (Sitamarhi district)

Odisha: 122 villages in 9 Gram Panchayats of K. Nuagaon (Kandhamal district) and 43 villages in 9 Gram Panchayats of Nuapada district

Adopting a Multi-sectoral Approach
The projects rests on a six-point integrated approach with the long-term objective of: Young people are able to decide if and when to marry and pursue their Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in a supportive environment.

  1. Empowering at-risk and married adolescents
  2. Providing alternatives to Child Marriage Education and Economic Opportunities for Girls and families
  3. Strengthening Child Protection Systems
  4. Making SRH services available, accessible, affordable and acceptable
  5. Changing social norms, challenging harmful customs and traditions related to Child Marriage and SRHR
  6. Influencing legal & policy frameworks through policy dialogue and evidence-based collective advocacy 

Numbers Speak

  • 118 School Management Committees formed
  • 99 Parents Teachers Associations formed
  • 73 Child Parliament Sessions Conducted
  • 848 Adolescent girls accessed Social Protection Schemes
  • 871 Healthcare providers trained to deliver youth-friendly SRH services
  • 38 Health Facilities developed to deliver youth-friendly SRH services services
  • 38 Information Dissemination Centres established and strengthened 

The most salient aspect of the project is the fact that we have empowered adolescents to take decisions which are in the best interest of their lives. Following are some of the highlights:

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Sabitri’s Story
The story of Sabitri makes us wonder whether the India we live in is actually making any real progress. It makes us wonder what we (still) make our girls go through in the name of tradition. It makes us wonder how much a young girl can withstand in life and still manage to come out strong and fierce in her approach to life. Sabitri’s story is the story of HOPE. It’s a story of how with the support of our donors, we’re bringing REAL & Progressive change.

In the remotest corner of Odisha is a village named Bondaguda wrapped in old traditions and gender complexities. Sabitri belongs to one of the prominent tribe of this region, an area facing acute poverty and minimal government systems and resources. After her 10th standard exams, Sabitri’s parents forced her to quit school due to the financial crisis the family was facing, they wanted her to get married so that the dowry they receive could cover their essential expenses. According to her tribe’s traditions, the dowry comes from the groom’s side to the bride’s side.

Besides, Sabitri’s parents felt that their situation was precarious as their second daughter is physically challenged and needs constant support which the parents were unable to provide. It was at this juncture in her life when Sabitri found herself in a life-skill training by Bal Raksha Bharat.

Sasmita Behra, Bal Raksha Bharat’s Cluster Coordinator from Sabitri’s village ensured that the girl makes it to the 5-day Lalitha Babu residential training at Bandhavgarh. At the training, Sabitri was made aware about the legal age to get married along with other life skill training modules. Back from the training, Sabitri opposed her marriage, she was questioned on her motives, her parents could not fathom why she opposed their decision to get her married at 16 – an age at which most tribal girls are married off.

With the support of Sasmita, our Cluster Coordinator and the friends she made at the Lalitha Babu training, Sabitri found her strength and took it upon herself to change the course of her life. She stopped her marriage made her parents understand the consequence of child marriage. She also spoke to the groom and his family to make them understand the evils of child marriage. This one decision empowered her so much that along with Sasmita our Cluster Coordinator she went in to prevent 2 more child marriages in her village. She continues to spear head the movement against this social practice.

Sabitri is regular with her studies. Just finished with her 12th board exams, she says, “I want to work for my community as a health worker because women and girls are not taken care of here, and that needs to change.” Sabitri aims to be a Health Worker or Nurse. She is also ensuring that her younger sister is getting education and is working towards her dream of becoming a teacher. Sabitri is an inspiration for her younger sister and many other girls in her community.

With the programme ‘Marriage No Child’s Play’, Bal Raksha Bharat is empowering many more young girls like Sabitri, we are ensuing that they know about their rights as children. We have been successful in stopping 23 Child Marriages in Kandhamal district and 15 in Nuapada district of Odisha and we are not stopping unless we ensure that this ill practice is no more prevalent.

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