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Fighting against child marriage and dowry in Bihar

Oct 05, 2017

Government of Bihar in technical collaboration with UNICEF is promoting the value of girls and ensuring access to opportunities.

Patna/New Delhi: 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.

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