Yes we can! Success in combating child marriages

Today is International Day of the Girl, and therefore we call attention to discrimination through gender inequality, sexual violence against women and forced child marriages. Dance4Life believes that all girls worldwide are entitled to their own choices regarding sex and relationships and would like to share a positive example of change: Save The Date.

At the end of last year we completed our ‘Save the Date’ program in Nepal. This project, which was made possible thanks to the participants of the Dutch Postcode Lottery,  started in 2015 and ran for three years. The goal of Save the Date was to raise awareness about child marriages and ultimately to reduce the number of child marriages. Former Dance4Life ambassador and model Doutzen Kroes kicked off the campaign that revolved around Save The Date in the Netherlands. She also visited Nepal in 2016, a journey that impressed her a lot.

Cooperation for a unique approach
Dance4Life cooperated with Free Press Unlimited and the local partners Child Helpline International and Restless Development Nepal. Director Jael van der Heijden: “We really wanted to come up with an integrated approach to combat child marriages and to improve the position of girls in Nepal”. With the help of a radio soap, a telephone helpline and local educational activities, such as a life skills and leadership training to strengthen the self-confidence and independence of young people, no fewer than 87,000 people (young people, parents, teachers, community workers) were reached in Nepal with a positive message: you have a choice! Trainer4Life Rekha Trikhatri (27 years old), one of the young people who supported in the project:

“I think the title Save the Date indeed was very catchy because it really captures what it is about: saving the date for the wedding… In Nepal we have the highest prevalence of child marriage due to traditions and cultural norms. Save the Date is an example of a consortium of organisations successfully working together to address the problem of child marriage. We have seen great changes with those young people in the communities”. 

The innovative part of the Journey4Life is the music and the empowerment skills. (Rekha, 27)

Impact on the lives of young people in Nepal
Save The Date achieved a huge impact: 20 percent more young people who state that they are not getting married before they turn 20, a 35 percent increase in students’ knowledge about their sexual health rights and a 93% (!) decrease of school dropout related to child marriages. Margriet Schreuders, Head of the Charity Department of the Dutch Postcode Lottery says about this:

The Postcode Lottery believes that civil society organizations are the engine for change and that they can improve the world in an innovative way. Thanks to our members, we have supported Dance4Life in the Save The Date project, an integrated approach to combat child marriages and to improve the position of girls in Nepal. With great results: more young people in Nepal want to get married later and know more about their sexual health. In addition, the drop-out rate associated with child marriages decreased by 93%. A fantastic result!”

Tackling the Taboo: research on child marriages
Finally, we would like to highlight the new report Tackling the Taboo (2019) which presents findings from a review of 23 organizations that work at the intersection of child marriage and sexuality. It includes three case studies that feature the work of grassroots organizations working in politically and culturally conservative contexts. The report focuses on the need to address child, early and forced marriage and unions (CEFMU), and highlights the vital role played by gender-transformative programmes. This approach is similar to Dance4Life’s approach of empowering young people by stimulating their socio-emotional learning skills, that help to make healthy sexual choices.

The report was produced by the CEFM and Sexuality Programs Working Group: American Jewish World Service (AJWS), CARE, CREA, Global Fund for Women, Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, GreeneWorks, International Center for Research, on Women (ICRW), International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), Nirantar Trust, Plan International, Population Council and Promundo-US.

Sarah Green, Senior Policy Advisor for Sexual Health and Rights at AJWS:

We hope that Tackling the Taboo will be used as a learning tool for practitioners, a guide for future research opportunities, a call to action for funders, and an advocacy tool for engaging in dialogue with policymakers and leaders. There are roles and responsibilities for everyone in addressing the root causes of child, early and forced marriage and unions and promoting adolescent girls’ rights.