Odisha: Adolescent girl champions interact with international donors from the Global Progamme to end child marriage

Bhubaneswar: Adolescent girls from different districts of Odisha interacted with a team of representatives from various countries on their journey as champions to End Child Marriage in Odisha.

Twenty girls interacted with international visitors in Bhubaneswar and shared their stories of courage and determination, with many of them having resisted the pressure from families to get married at an early age.

The team comprised Isabelle Solon Helal, Deputy Director, Global Affairs Canada, Ali Hendy, Child Protection and Child Marriage Lead, UK (FCDO), Ritika Dhall, Assistant Director, Gender Equality, Norad, Beate Gabrielsen, Head of Political Section, Norway, Mieke Vogels, Senior Policy Advisor SRHR, Netherlands Embass and Ute Scholz, President, Zonta International who, together with senior representatives of UNCEF and UNFPA as part of the steering committee of the Global Programme to End Child Marriage (GPECM) were part of the interaction.

The Global Programme promotes the rights of adolescent girls to avert child/early/forced marriage and pregnancy and enables them to achieve their aspirations through education and alternative pathways. It supports households in demonstrating positive attitudes, empowers girls to direct their own futures, and strengthens the services that allow them to do so.

The adolescent girls shared their stories of courage and journey as peer leaders and also asked questions to the visitors.

“My parents wanted to me to get married when I was 15-years-old. I was scared of the consequences if I refused. But I spoke to Anganwadi didi and together with district administration officials, they convinced my parent not to go ahead with the marriage. They helped me to enrol in the Industrial Training Institute where I learned tailoring. Today I earn Rs 8,000 a month and proudly support my family,” said Malati Pujari from Nabarangpur.

Suprava Subhadarshini Behera, 16 years, from Kandhamal is training to be an electrician. Like Malati, her marriage was fixed in July this year. She too reached out to the Anganwadi worker and with her help could stop her marriage. Both the girls, like many others in the state, have been benefitting from the Advika initiative that teaches life skills to adolescents through weekly meetings at the Anganwadi centers.

end child marriage in odisha

The girls also asked questions to the team on gender inequality in western countries, the value of education as the only path to success and about the minimum age of marriage in other countries.

Ritika Dhall, Assistant Director, Gender Equality, Norad from Norway said gender inequality is often hidden. It may show in difference in salaries between men and women even though they do the same work. “We need to work around the world to ensure equality is understood and practiced,” she said.

Prior to the interaction with the adolescents, the donors visited Ganjam and Gajapati districts to understand the joint work between UNICEF and UNFPA on ending child marriage by interacting with multiple partners, adolescents, community members including Panchayat representatives and women’s groups. They also interacted with the District Task Force on ending child marriage and adolescent empowerment.

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