IN NEPAL 10% of girls are married before the age of 15 and 37% are married before the age of 18, according to Unicef figures.
This is despite the fact the legal age for marriage in the country is 20 for both men and women.
Poverty is the main factor that drives child marriage, as well as being a consequence of it. According to Girls Not Brides – a global partnership of 800 civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage – girls from richer families marry, on average, two years later than those from the poorest families.
However, some communities who live in poverty are challenging this tradition. Action Aid has just completed a 12-year programme in Bara, Nepal, which was funded by hundreds of Irish people through child sponsorship.
Children in rural Bara face many hardships including child labour, marrying young and caste-based discrimination.
The idea of child sponsorship is that an organisation funds community development, benefiting children and families, for a set period of time. Once the community is confident it can continue to develop on its own, the organisation moves on.
As a result of the initiative, many villages in the region are being declared ‘child marriage-free zones’.
In a statement Action Aid said: “Too often, children in the communities of Bara were marrying young and leaving school to work for daily wages in order to support their family’s needs.
“Thanks to these campaigns led and run by children in Bara to encourage more children to attend school, the school enrolment rate has increased from 70% to 90% over the past 12 years.”
In 2005, approximately 40,000 children were out of school in Bara. This figure has reduced dramatically to 6,000.
The overall number of child marriages is harder to define, but is declining. A census carried out in 2011 showed that 53,924 children aged 14 years or under were married (both boys and girls). In 2005, the median age for marriage in Bara was 15.1 years, this has increased to 17.3 years.