Ignorance is not bliss: Children’s club members prevent an early marriage in Sindh

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Puppi is a 14 year old girl and a student of the 8th grade. She lives with her family in a small village of Shaheed Benizarabad District of the Sindh Province. Her father farms a plot of land owned by a local land owner. His work fetches around Rs. 20,000 (USD 200, approximately) per month. Puppi lives in a small house with her parents, seven sisters and six brothers.

When Puppi’s sister, Sayani, turned 15, her father decided to marry her off to her brother’s brother-in-law. This is a common practice in rural areas of Pakistan, referred to as watta satta. She was not ready for marriage but could not voice her opposition because of the deeply patriarchal culture.

 In August 2015, a team from Save the Children, working on the IKEA foundation-funded CHAON project, visited Puppi’s village and invited all girls to meeting place. They formed a child club and started conducting meetings on a monthly basis where they came together and discussed the solutions of the problems they were facing. After that, they named their club ‘Pari’ or ‘Fairy’. Puppi is an active member of the Club.

The team from Save the Children arranged trainings for the club members on different life skills, namely: self-awareness, expressing emotions, making decisions, child rights, communication, health and nutrition and child protection. The training sessions have enhanced the confidence of the girls and increased their knowledge in the domain of child rights, children’s issues and laws.

They have also become aware of the law against child marriages in the Sindh Province, and the negative effects of early and forced marriages. But Puppi soon realised that not everyone in her village knew about this law. There were some examples in their village where girls experienced motherhood at an early age and suffered from severe health issues. In some cases, both mother and child died during labour; and child marriage lay at the heart of all these problems.

Thanks to the knowledge imparted through the training sessions, Puppi actively opposed her sister’s marriage. She discussed the matter with her mother and convinced her. Later the child club she was a part of arranged a meeting with Puppi’s father to talk him out of forcing Sayani to marry. Puppi’s mother also lent a supporting voice to the girls’ argument.

Finally, they were able to convince Karim, Puppi’s father to delay the marriage until Sayani turned 18. Now Karim has decided that he will not marry any of his children off before the age of 18.

Says Karim: “It was very hard for me to change my mind and convince the other family members to postpone this marriage, but my wife and my younger daughter convinced me with their argument.” He goes on to say: “They told me about the government of Sindh’s child marriage law which imposes punishment on families who get their children, both sons and daughters, married at an early age. I do not want to break the law.”