Shyamkaat: A Village Notorious For Child Marriage
A 14-year-old Dilkaish is a beacon of hope for all child brides and has been in the forefront against the social evil still rampant in many areas of our country
Shyamkaat is a nondescript village on the Indian side of the porous Indo-Nepal border in Maharajganj district of Uttar Pradesh. Apart from human trafficking, lack of proper health facilities and low literacy rate, the place is notorious for high percentage of child marriages. Almost 74 per cent of girls from this district marry before the legal age of 18 years. One can find a child bride in every second home in the district. The area abounds in horrifying stories of girls getting pregnant as early as 11 years and brides being subjected to inhuman behaviour at the hands of their in-laws and husbands. Many of these girls were even forced to co-exist in the same house with concubines and second wives of their husbands. But poverty and illiteracy have sealed the lips of the girls here and both the girls and their families are forced to accept their fate and reconcile to a life of hardships and humiliation. While the literacy rate of males here is 63.92 per cent, for the females it is just a dismal 27.93 per cent.
In such a bleak scenario, however, there is a beacon of hope. Dilkaish, a 14-year-old from the minority community, is a child bride. She has been today leading a silent, but powerful revolution against child marriage. Married at the tender age of 11 to her maternal cousin Ravi three years ago, Dilkaish Khatoon, now 14, is determined not to go to her husband’s house till she turns 18.
GRAM NIYOJAN KENDRA EMPOWERING WOMEN
Gram Niyojan Kendra is a national level organisation, which has its headquarters in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. Working for the last 35 years, the GNK aims at facilitating the process of rural development by helping voluntary organisation in training their workers, in planning their programmes and in evaluating their performance. In addition, it aims at empowering the marginalised section of population, especially women by initiating development action based on justice and equality.
The Kendra is working in 89 village of Maharajganj districts under the banner of GNK-Plan and the office is located at Gorakhpur and Nautanwa. The 89 communities are in three blocks of Ratanpur, Laxmipur and Brijmanganj of Maharajganj district respectively.
Since 2000, the GNK is working to promote Child Centered Community Development (CCCD)—through sustainable intervention in the field of Early Child Care and Development (ECCD), Health, Protection of Child Rights, Education, Household Economic Security, and Disaster Risk Reduction.
Plan India is a part of Plan International, one of the world’s largest community development organisations. Plan India is a nationally registered child-centered community development organisations and has been operating in India since 1979. Plan’s intervention started in 1999 in Maharajganj district in eastern UP and expanded to other districts. Currently Plan is carrying intensive and integrated CCCD work in 6 districts-Ambedkarngar, Lucknow, Sant Ravidasnagar, Pratapgarh, Mirzapur and Maharajganj.
A student of Standard VIII, Dilkaish is keen to finish at least her intermediate examination before she steps into her in-laws house. Her mother Shafiqun stands behind her decision. She says her daughter’s early marriage was chiefly because of emotional reasons as Dilkaish’s maternal aunt Saliman was not keeping good health and wanted her only son Ravi to be married off in her lifetime.
“Ravi, my son-in law, who is also my nephew, was going off to Saudi Arabia for work and my sister insisted on nikaah. But even then I had felt I was being unjust to Dilkaish, but it was the men folk who had arranged everything and I could not say anything,” said Shafiqun, holding the youngest of her six children in her arms. She said her great consolation was when she learnt that ruksati would only take place when Ravi would return from Saudi Arabia three years later.
Some members of Gramin Niyojan Kendra—Plan India who have been working on removing such social evils as child marriage came to Dilkaish village and made people aware of the dangerous consequences of early marriage. The group has been inducting girls and boys in a leadership programme called Babu Bahini group. Dilkaish managed to convince her parents that she would like to join this group. This decision proved to be the turning point in her life. She gained confidence and realised that while she cannot undo what has been done but at least now she can postpone her ruksati till she turns 18. She declared this to her family who accepted it after some resistance.
Dilkaish has been undergoing training for a year now. Ravi is due to return to India after completing a three-year this summer. Earlier Dilkaish would have to go to his home after the traditional ruksati but now she is confident that she will have her way and convince Ravi and her in-laws to delay this for a few more years.
Some miles away in Kailashnagar locality, there resides another flag bearer of womanhood. Working with GNK-Plan for the last few years, 21-year-old Kiran who hails from the Lodh caste is in the final year of her graduation and wishes to pursue her BEd as she wants to become a teacher. Her mother Shivkumari who is shiksha mitra is all praise for her decision.
She says that she is keen to carry out her social work even after marriage. Kiran is aware that not many families of her caste would take such a bold step and give so much importance to study. Kiran says, “Girls should resist and not marry before the age of 18 years. Early marriage means spending the rest of live living as an adult when still a child.” Early marriage means coping with complex relations, she adds.
By Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow