Lahore, May 24, 2017: A five-year project aimed at preventing child marriages by enabling young people to make informed decisions regarding marriage and health rights was launched at a local hotel on Friday. The event was organized by Bedari in collaboration with Oxfam. This project is being implemented in Sindh by Indus Resource Center (launching ceremony in Sindh was held earlier this month, and has been reported here on this website).
The project ‘Marriage: No Child’s Play’ is a multi-country initiative designed to equip young people, especially young girls, with life skills education and providing them with socio-economic opportunities through policy reforms. The project will be implemented in Muzaffargarh and Lodhran districts in Punjab and Larkana and Shikarpur districts in Sindh over the next five years.
It is supported by an alliance, More than Brides Alliance (MTBA), which is funded by Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands. The Alliance consists of four members: Save the Children, Oxfam Novib, Simavi, and Population Council.
The key objective of the MTBA’s program “Marriage No Child’s Play” is to help young people decide if and when to marry and pursue their sexual and reproductive rights in a supportive environment. The main components of the project include different trainings on life skills, advocacy, girls’ education, economic empowerment, and awareness in the communities.
The prominent speakers at the launching ceremony included Ahmar Majeed (prominent lawyer), Wasim Durrani (Oxfam), Shehnila Aslam (Member Punjab Assembly), Mehreen Siddiqui (Punjab Commission on the Status of Women), Sara Aslam (Director General, Child Protection and Welfare Bureau Punjab), Nasreen Ayub (Chief Child Commissioner, Punjab), Hassan Qazilbash (Country Director, Oxfam), and Anbreen Ajaib (Executive Director, Bedari) spoke at the occasion highlighting various aspects of child marriages, and suggesting the way forward.
A large number of people from different walks of life participated in the event. Some artists had created paintings highlighting the issue of child marriages. The presented their paintings to the honorable guests.
Child marriage is a wide spread phenomenon in Pakistan. UNICEF Innocenti Research Center has mentioned that 37 per cent of Pakistani women get married before reaching the age of 18 years. This is an overall ratio. The exact number of Early Marriages is not available due to lack of proper documentation and data collection, although plenty of evidence in the shape of regular media reports, case studies by various NGOs and INGOs as well as qualitative research is available to support this proposition. Media reports as well as case studies and qualitative research show that young girls – as young as 6 months – are married (or committed to be married) to persons mostly much older than them and sometimes to boys of the same age. Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (2006-07) mentions in its section on teenage fertility that almost half of the girls of 15 to 18 years of age were already pregnant or had a baby to take care of. It gives us pretty clear picture of how many children get married before reaching the age of 18 years.
Note: This is an excerpt from a position paper produced by Bedari on the issue of child marriages in 2011.