Posted by: helpachildtostudy | April 28, 2009

Linking the Issues of Girls’ Education and Child Marriage

When I ask many of the girls we sponsor what they would have done if they hadn’t received the scholarship, the answer is usually the same.

“I would’ve gotten married.”

In rural areas of India, marriage at the age of 15 or 16 is still fairly common, I have even met girls who were married off at the age of 14 and 12. Many families still do not see a point to educating their daughters further, a girl is a burden to the family and a husband should be found for her as soon as possible.

Bharti, who has recently graduated from M.B.B.S. and is preparing for her post grad studies, told me that every single one of the girls she grew up with are now married with at least 2-3 children, she is the only one who managed to continue her education. Bharti now plans to specialize in gynecology, she’s well aware of the problems that rural women face especially in regards to early marriage and hopes to be able to make a difference.

Child marriage may have been banned since 1929, but according to the National Family Health Survey in 2006 as many as 44.5% of women between the ages of 20-24 had been married before the age of 18. Early marriage not only limits a girl’s opportunities in life, it can also lead to serious health consequences. After marriage it is expected that the couple will soon have a child and pregnancies among adolescents hold a much higher risk of complication. Infant mortality is also higher among adolescent mothers and with little knowledge of contraceptive methods birth rates are often high.

Girls who are able to continue their education are more likely to delay marriage and with it, child bearing. The most recent NHFS survey found that compared to 18% of men, 41% of women had no education at all. Only 22% had studied past the 10th grade. In an analysis of different states, higher education rates of girls directly reflected in a lower child marriage rate I believe that the issue of girl’s education and child marriage can very much still be linked together. While some families hold no interest in the education of their daughters at all, would other families be willing to delay their marriage if they could see the possibility of a brighter future for them?

Would introducing free education for girls until the 12th grade with incentives for their parents help to lower the rates of child marriage within some parts of India? With it the practice would certainly not disappear, but it might ensure that families wanting to educate their daughters further have the possibility to do so.

Apart from the opportunities that study brings with it, a delayed marriage means delayed childbirth, and fewer complications for both mother and child.

If anybody has any thoughts on the issue then please share them here, I would love to read them.

Some interesting related articles:

The health implications of early marriage and pregnancy from a case study in Nepal

India’s latest National Family Health Survey report here

An excellent article on the economic cost of not educating girls.

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  1. […] Posted in Student story | Tags: child headed family, education, girls, india, orphans, poverty, sponsorship « Linking the Issues of Girls’ Education and Child Marriage […]

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