Image of a class of young girls wearing pink and black uniforms while sitting on the floor of a classroom. The teacher is standing in the middle of the classroom, and some of the girls sit with books open in front of them. Photo Credit: Gramoday Chetna Kendra

Gramoday Chetna Kendra

One in three of the world’s child marriages occur in India.

The district of Chatra, India, is extremely remote. Poverty, social pressure and the lack of education make it hard for girls to stay in school or seek a life beyond early marriage.

Many families consider girls to be paraya dhan – someone else’s wealth. This means that a girl’s work and productivity benefit her husband’s family. Educating daughters is seen as less of a priority than educating sons, who are responsible for taking care of their biological parents in old age.

A women-led organization, Gramoday Chetna Kendra (GCK) is working to enroll and keep girls in school, and demonstrate the value of doing so.

GCK runs a boarding school for girls from Chatra, an area that has one of the highest dropout rates in India. In addition to a traditional curriculum, girls learn debate and public speaking and participate in theatre and sport. These activities help girls grow their confidence and leadership skills. More than a thousand girls have filled GCK’s classrooms.

After attending the residential school for a year, girls receive support to re-enroll in local schools. With a stronger understanding of their rights and the knowledge of how powerful an education is, GCK has seen an increase in school enrollment and retention. That’s their goal: the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to be married before the age of 18.

Bhaguuram Choudry, a community leader, notes, “The main thing we need to do to end child marriage is to make sure everyone knows how important education is. When people are educated, they know the dangers of child marriage. Now, even the girls are more vocal. They are refusing to get married early.”

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