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Village shuns early marriage

A little known village in Bero block of Ranchi district has shown that it takes mere resolve to do away with age-old practices that have little legality.

Residents of Tuko village have taken the vow to never marry off girls below 18 years and boys below 21 years in a progressive step that is sure to inspire many other such hamlets where child marriage is still prevalent.

“We are now planning to put up display boards at the village, asking people not to bring any marriage proposal for children,” said Md Zahir, a mukhiya of the area, during a state-level data dissemination meeting by Breakthrough, an international HR organisation, in Ranchi on Tuesday.

Khusnuma Rehman of Aman Welfare Society, an NGO that works among slum dwellers in and around Ranchi, came forward to share that they also formed a committee that had pledged not to encourage early marriage.

The response, naturally, enthused officials of Breakthrough that is working to stop early marriages in 42 blocks spread across three districts — Gaya of Bihar, and Ranchi and Hazaribagh of Jharkhand. “This was the impact of our sensitisation campaign,” claimed Chandranath Mishra, project manager (early marriage), Breakthrough.

The meeting, which was attended by about 70 representatives of panchayat raj institutes and NGO members from places where Breakthrough works, was supported by organisations like Ford Foundation, OAK Foundation and Human Dignity Foundation.

Leena Sushant, director (M&E) of Breakthrough, informed that they had conducted a base-line survey last year, covering 5,483 people of 280 villages in Gaya, Ranchi and Hazaribagh. “Fourteen per cent of the respondents were girls aged 18 to 21 years. It was found that 60 per cent of such girls get married before they turn 18,” she added.

The state has also taken initiative to check child marriages. At a programme in the state capital on August 29, social welfare, women and child development minister Annapurna Devi flagged off a vehicle that is travelling across Bihar and Jharkhand, campaigning against early marriage. The vehicle will tour for six months and come back in February next year.

Till now, it has covered 154 villages and sensitised 1.27 lakh people.