Home to nearly 250 families from diverse caste-based communities, Lador Kala in Karauli district, Rajasthan, is one of those villages where child marriage has always been seen as a normal practice. “Every year, 10 to 15 children from our village used to be married off during the Akha Teej season. None of us ever thought of it as a bad practice or even an unusual one since this was a regular custom in our village. Besides, sex-selective abortions, and discrimination and violence against women and girls were very prevalent too,” narrates Satyendra Jadoun from Lador Kala.
In the light of concerns such as these, ActionAid Association, with support from UNFPA, started a programme last year in Karauli district, Rajasthan and Muzaffarnagar district, Uttar Pradesh. These districts were chosen basis their low child sex-ratio, gender gap in literacy and early marriage practices. Rolled out in August 2018 covering a total of 400 villages from across these districts, the ‘Yeh Kahani Badalni Hai’ (‘Let’s Change the Narrative’) programme has been working towards sensitizing communities on issues such as gender inequality and gender-based discrimination, besides enabling them to question and challenge the existing gender norms.
“The awareness meetings conducted as part of this programme opened our eyes to the historical injustices being faced by women and girls in our society. Motivated to change things for the better, I subsequently joined this programme and started working towards ending the various ill practices prevalent in our village,” adds Satyendra Jadoun, now associated with Yeh Kahani Badalni Hai as a volunteer. “This year, ahead of Akha Teej, along with other volunteers, I started running awareness campaigns in the village, specifically reaching out to families of the children vulnerable to child marriage. As a result of our collective efforts, not even one child marriage took place in our village this Akha Teej season. We are all happy that this initiative has been able to transform the mindsets of communities within a short span of just one year,” shares Satyendra, with pride shining bright in his eyes.
ActionAid Association has been implementing this ground-breaking initiative along with Alwar Mewat Institute of Education Development (AMIED) in Rajasthan and Astitva Samajik Sansthan in Uttar Pradesh.
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