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Programme

Roza Khatun- Murshidabad

Roza is pursuing B.A. Honours in Physical Education and is in her first year. Her parents have attempted to get her married five times, as she is the eldest child. Roza has refused each time as she wants to study further and become something in life. She sought help from the Block Development Officer and Police twice about her parents wanting to marry her off. They came to her home and counseled her parents. Her younger sister got married before turning 18 – Roza says she was helpless, she could not stop the marriage. Her parents say Muslim girls must get married early and that sport has no meaning for girls like her (Roza is the captain of the Hariharpada Football Team). She says that she is still subjected to physical violence by her parents.

Child marriage the violation

Child marriage the violation of basic human rights and young girls are the main sufferer of this social customs. Though social movements and initiatives of duty bearers are taking place for the effective implementation of legislations and to change the mindset of the community, Child marriage is still a widely prevalent practice in West Bengal. Despite the fact that in the state of West Bengal had social reformers who led the country in thinking about women empowerment, this social evil is robbing the girls in the State of their right to live a life of dignity and freedom.

Every second girl in the high prevalence child marriage districts of West Bengal were married off before they reach 18, the legal age for girls to get wedded, a UNICEF reported a couple of years back, with Murshidabad (61.04 per cent), Birbhum (58.03 per cent), Malda (56.07 per cent) and Purulia (54.03 per cent) being the worst off districts.

Areas of Intervention (West Bengal)

District Block Gram Panchayat
Murshidabad Hariharpara Choa, Rukunpur, Khidirpur
Beldanga Debkundu, Mirzapur – I, Begunbari
Mohammad Bazaar Bhutura, Angarguria, Mohammad Bazar
 Birbhum Mohammadbazar Mohammadbazar, Bhutura, Angargaria
Rampurhat II Bishnupur, Margram I, Margram II

The Major Focus Areas :

  1. Setting up of Task force / Committee at the district level and at the block level:

    Task force would be constituted with all the officials responsible for implementation of programmes and schemes related to children such as the District Education Officer (DEO), ICDS-Project Director, District Magistrate (DM), Superintendent of Police (SP) and District Collector, including some representatives of the civil society such as the Zilla Parishad Chairman, NGO members etc. The main function of these task force would be to review the activities of the block committees and the gram panchayats and provide support where needed. The task force will review the status of child marriages in the entire district. Based on this review and feedback future activities would be planned.

  2. Sensitisation at District, Sub division; Block level, Panchayat level:
    • Awareness campaigns comprising of rallies, marches, street plays, wall posters etc., for creating awareness about the harms and problems of child marriages in all the villages.
    • Interaction with the members of the Panchayats to share with them the child marriage law and their roles and responsibilities.
    • Organising interface meetings with the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer, the CWC members and the District Child Protection Officer, police on a regular basis, as without their co-ordination the law cannot be implemented.
    • Work with Religious leaders, community leaders to gain their support and active participation in combating child marriage.
  3. Ensuring participation of Children and Youth:

    Children and youth will be both the target group as well as trained to be change makers in this project. This will be done by making them aware about the fall-outs of child marriage and what they can do to stop it in their own lives and in the community.

  4. Policy advocacy at the state and national level:

    The findings and learnings from the villages, blocks and districts will be used for policy advocacy with concerned persons at the state and national level.

Achievements

  1. Increased prevention of child marriages

    From several sources of data (Marriage Data from the Imams (Kabilnama) Marriage Registers, Sardere (Samajpati), Moyajjem, Purohits and Masjid Secretary) it can be seen that there is a reduction in child marriages. Khidirpur had 92% child marriages in 2011-12 which reduced to 8.2% in 2013-14. According to perceptions of the people in the project area child marriages have decreased by 50 to 70%.

    District Block GP Total Marriage
    2011-12
    Child Marriage
    2011-12
    Total Marriage
    2013-14
    Child Marriage
    2013-14
    Difference in %
    Birbhum Rampurhat-II Margarm-I 107 63 (59%) 85 5 (6%) 53
    Margarm-II 133 79 (59%) 75 9 (12%) 47
    Bishnupur 157 113 (72%) 107 13 (12%) 60
    Mohammadbazar Angerguria 77 56 (72%) 92 3 (3%) 69
    Bhutura 68 46 (68%) 87 4(6%) 62
    Mohammadbazar 46 31 (67%) 91 5 (6%) 61
    Murshidabad Hariharpara Choa 123 44 (36%) 244 23 (9%) 27
    Rukunpur 243 221(91%) 188 26 (14%) 77
    Khidirpur 281 259 (92%) 230 19 (8.2%) 84
    Beldanga-I Debkundu 408 261(58%) 533 69 (13%) 45
    Mirzapur-I 104 64 (62%) 278 31 (11%) 51
    Begunbari 864 409 (47%) 369 55 (15%) 32
  2. Number of Cases Intervened/Stopped/Prevented in 2014
    District Number of Cases
    Murshidabad 62
    Birbhum 34
  3. Number of marriages registered with Panchayat Secretaries

    Marriage registers are being maintained by the Panchayat Secretaries where the project is being implemented. Imams have started asking for age certificates and are not solemnizing marriages without seeing these. The age certificates are also being retained along with the kabilnamas. The Imams have collectively decided that they will not do any child marriages. They are actively promoting later marriages through the Friday namaaz, Jalsas, house to house visits, and influencing their colleagues. In Khidirpur and Begunbadi Gram Panchayats (GPs) all marriages are being noted in a register. In Begunbagi GP The Panchayat Pradhan collects information on child marriages during the meeting on 4th Saturday of the month from the ASHA, AWW and the Panchayat members.

  4. Number of Girls followed up for Higher education

    It is by now internationally accepted that one of the best ways to reduce child marriages and delay age of marriage is working to keep girls in school. In three years an impressive 930 girls were helped to transition to higher education, the highest number, almost half in 2014

Improved Response from Government

Establishment of village, block and district level committees

Child Protection Committees (CPCs) have been formed in the intervention area. Village level CPCs (VLCPCs), Panchayat level CPCs, Block level CPCs are formed. Under the ICPS there is no provision for a Panchayat level CPC but Jabala has formed these. District Child Protection Units (DCPUs) have been formed. All these are under the Department of Social Welfare. The Social Welfare Officer at the Block and District level is the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer (CMPO). Committees meet regularly, minutes are kept. Khirdirpur Panchayat CPC had met 6 times since November 2013. Panchayats have review meetings with different departments’ grass roots functionaries every Saturday and child marriage (CM) is reviewed in these meetings. Phone numbers of different officers are displayed in the Panchayats where information on CM can be sent.

The Block Development Officers (BDOs) are conducting meetings with Imams and through the Imams’ Committees issuing notices to all masjids and Imams to not solemnise child marriages. Bravery awards have been given by the Block administration for girls whose child marriages were prevented. BDOs have supported girls’ education after their marriages have been stopped, by providing books, uniforms, bags etc.

Block Development Officer of Hariharpara, Murshidabad provided Rs. 2000/- to Sonia Khatun ( A Child Marriage Survivor) for education and assured that he would take necessary action for her education support. (Source: Annual Report 2013)

VLCPC in Asenga Angarguria (GP Birbhum) organized an event in their village in December 2014 where they invited the adolescent theatre group and supported all the expenses.

The DPO of ICDS for Birbhum Distict invited Jabala as resource person in the District level workshop for the ICDS supervisors and Block Coordinators/PD facilitators. In three days’ training more than 60 ICDS supervisors were trained in the issues of restricting child marriage. Jabala has been invited to do similar training for the Police.

DPO (ICDS), Birbhum and Murshidabad issued circulars to all CDPOs to send monthly report on Child Marriage in Birbhum.

    Officer In charge of Hariharpara Police station has taken the following initiative
  1. Organizing Religious Leaders’ meetings to discuss prevention of Child Marriage
  2. Organizing events to raise awareness of Child Rights violations

Block Development Officer of Hariharpara, Murshidabad, formed a Child Protection Committee at Block level.

Sub Divisional Officer at Birbhum requested Jabala to intervene in the Fulur Gram Panchayat area which is prone to Child Marriage (Source: Annual Report 2013)

Number of officials involved in direct/indirect interventions

Officials displayed a high commitment towards the issue. Notable examples are the Block Welfare Officers, Officer in Charge(OIC) in Beldanga-I, the l Block Development Officers (Hariharpara), Joint Block Development Officer in Beldenga-I and many others.

The Police have been taking some responsibility for stopping child marriages. Guidelines have been given to civic police in the villages, along with the required training – child marriage is one of the issues along with ‘eve teasing’ and other safety and crime issues. Representative of the Police in Birbhum noting all child marriages in the General Dairy but not compiled or analysed. Undertakings are taken from parents are taken that they will not do child marriages after counseling them. These undertakings will be analysed periodically and the reports will be made public.

IEC materials against child marriages developed by Government

Wall paintings and ‘miking’ have been done by the Panchayats. The DCPU has prepared leaflets for awareness on Child Protection. Between February 21 2015 and March 24, the DCPU in Murshidabad has done awareness programmes in 52 Gram Panchayats of 17 Blocks and 5 Sub Divisions. The BDO Mohammad Bazar was so impressed by the adolescent girls’ drama against child marriage that he got it made into a video film and it is widely shown all over the block.

Budgetary Provisions by Panchayats

Panchayats in the West Bengal project areas have begun to budget for child marriage related work. Two Blocks in Murshidabad District are now budgeting for the rehabilitation of ‘child marriage survivors’. In Begunbari-I Gram Panchayat, Rs. 2.5 lakhs has been budgeted for 2015-16 for support for girls whose marriages are stopped. The Block Development Officer of Beldanga is promoting this and so other Gram Panchayats too may be budgeting for child marriage related activities.

Increased awareness and publicity on the issue

Officials believe that awareness of the PCM(Prevention of Child Marriage) Act has increased. There is fear of the law. Police Stations have done awareness programmes on the issue. Awareness amongst girls is high – girls in schools have begun to directly approach the appropriate authorities. In Birbhum, girls have gone directly to the SDO.

In all the Melas at the Block level, there are stalls on Child Marriage and the adolescent girls’ group performs their anti child marriage dramas. This is especially done in the Kanyashri Melas.

All the Masjids of Hariharapara are making announcements to ‘Stop Child marriages’ after Friday Prayers through mikes and loud speakers. Leaders are also making door to door visits (Ananda Bazar Patrika December 2013 (cited in Quarterly Report 2013)

BDO Hariharpara and Officer in Charge of Hariharpara police station intend to start the similar programme in all 10 Gram Panchayats within the block’s jurisdiction with active collaboration of Jabala. The initiation has been done in two Gram Panchayats viz. Humaipur and Swaruppur where a daylong mass campaign followed by a cultural programme was held to raise awareness. More than 3000-4000 people including important stakeholders like Member of Parliament Mr. Avijit Mukherjee, Supdt. of Police, Additional District Magistrate, Chief Medical Officer and other Block and Panchayat officials attended the programme. (Source: Annual Report 2013).

Increased confidence amongst girls

There are several examples of girls who emphasized how their self perception has changed as a result of Jabala’s interventions. The Mohammad Bazar girls ( members of the Drama Group ) parents now recognize that ‘they have become smart, now allow them to go out & listen to us them’. The Officer in Charge (Police) and the BDO have also publically recognized them and this has contributed to parents’ increasing respect for them.

Social solidarity has also increased – a girl with a heart problem, was helped by the VLCPC and the local media person to access medical treatment.

Adolescent girls are now playing an active role in reporting complaints against child marriages and seeking responses from the system.

The one big issue articulated by the girls is the fact that they are not given freedom to move around (Margram I and II).