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CARE and the tragedy of Nepal’s child grooms

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In many respects, Jason and I are typical. We were married in our mid-twenties as consenting, independent adults. We waited until we were ready to have children and now, on Father’s Day, Jason can celebrate being a dad to one of the coolest little guys around.

Across the globe in Nepal, many children aren’t so lucky. In fact, Nepal is one of eight countries where more than 10 percent of boys marry before the age of 18. In Nepal, 62 percent of males and a whopping 86 percent of females are married before the age of 19.

Parshuram Harijan (left), 31 years old, son Sakcham, 4 years old and wife Mayadevi (right) pose for a picture in front of the Dalit Social Development Center. Parshuram works here as a social mobilizer. CARE USA representatives have come to the area to view the progress of the Tipping Point Program, meant to combat child marriage in the districts of Kapilbastu and Rupandehi of Nepal near the Indian border.

Parshuram Harijan (left), 31 years old, son Sakcham, 4 years old and wife Mayadevi (right) pose for a picture in front of the Dalit Social Development Center. Parshuram works here as a social mobilizer. CARE USA representatives have come to the area to view the progress of the Tipping Point Program, meant to combat child marriage in the districts of Kapilbastu and Rupandehi of Nepal near the Indian border.

Parshuram, pictured above, was forced to marry at the age of 9 and wet himself on his wedding day because he was unable to untie his ceremonial garments. Three years later, at the age of 12 – and before he’d entered puberty – he was pressured to father a child. “I had no idea what marriage meant,” said Parshuram. “But I knew there were new expectations for me. Everyone told me you have responsibilities now.”

Child marriage rates are much higher for girls than boys, so much of the media’s attention has historically ben on child brides and the struggles they face, including domestic violence and deadly childbirth complications. But CARE is shining a light on the challenges of child grooms. Many experience extreme psychological trauma, and they are often forced to drop out of school to become breadwinners for their families.

Parshuram, now 31, is working with CARE to tackle the underlying causes of child marriage through a program called Tipping Point. As a “social mobilizer,” Parshuram reaches out to boys and girls, parents and grandparents, and religious leaders and educators to help understand and change the perceptions that perpetuate child marriage.

Many children feel pressure from their families and communities to marry. Wait “too long” into your teens and something myst be wrong with you. Not marrying before your grandparents die deprives them of an afterlife, according to Hindu scriptures. Girls are often married off by their families at a young age to avoid a larger dowry as they age, or to remove a mouth to feed from the household. Their child grooms gain that dowry, plus another household laborer.

Along with other social mobilizers, Parshuran organizes weekly discussion groups with children and their parents to talk about the importance of education, reproductive health, family planning, and the consequences of early marriage. Slowly but surely, attitudes are changing. Through his work, Parshuran is working to save the next generation.

A young girl smiles for the camera in the village of Marchwar, Nepal. CARE USA representatives have come to the area to view the progress of the Tipping Point Program, meant to combat child marriage in the districts of Kapilbastu and Rupandehi of Nepal near the Indian border.

A young girl smiles for the camera in the village of Marchwar, Nepal. CARE USA representatives have come to the area to view the progress of the Tipping Point Program, meant to combat child marriage in the districts of Kapilbastu and Rupandehi of Nepal near the Indian border.

CARE isn’t just focused on child grooms, though – CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty with a commitment to empowering women and girls. CARE is committed to its mission to serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world. CARE seeks a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has been overcome and people live in dignity and security. Last year, they helped 90 million people around the world.

CARE facilitates lasting change by:

  • Strengthening capacity for self-help
  • Providing economic opportunity
  • Delivering relief in emergencies
  • Influencing policy decisions at all levels
  • Addressing discrimination in all its forms

To learn more about CARE’s work in Nepal to end child marriage, visit childgrooms.care.org. There you will find pre-drafted letter to sign and send to your Congressional representatives.

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