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A District in Odisha is Now Child Marriage Free, Thanks To The Administration’s Proactiveness

In a first, the Ganjam district of Odisha declared itself child marriage free. The district administration checked the marriage data of the last two years and found out that no child marriage had taken place. The administration’s campaign,Nirbhay Kadi, against child marriage achieved its target. Among a host of initiatives to stop child marriage, the campaign has cash incentives, too. Rs 50,000 reward is given to any informer of child marriage in the district.

Odisha seems to be slowly getting out of the social evil of child marriage. Recently, Ganjam declared itself the first child marriage free district of the state. Under the ‘Nirbhaya Kadhi’ campaign, started two years ago, the Ganjam district administration achieved this feat by successfully managing to convince people to shun child marriages.

The ‘Nirbhaya Kadi’ campaign was launched under the leadership of Mr. Vijay Amruta Kulange, a 2013-batch IAS officer who is the Collector of Ganjam district. About 450 child marriages were prevented from taking place in the district in the last two years under this campaign.

Collector Kulange declared Ganjam as ‘child marriage free’ on January 3 after collecting detailed information about all the marriages that took place in 2020and 2021. Indian Masterminds talked to Mr. Kulange in detail about the ‘Nirbhaya Kadhi’ campaign and found out how it achieved cent percent success rate.

ias vijay amruta kulange
Ganjam Collector IAS Vijay Amruta Kulange

NIRBHAYA KADI CAMPAIGN

About two years ago, the administration in Ganjam district started a campaign called the Nirbhaya Kadhi (Fearless Bud) campaign. Talking to Indian Masterminds, Mr Kulange said that the initiative was started in September 2019 as marriages of girls below 18 is not permitted in our country. The district administration made a proper SOP including village, block and district level committees. Every Saturday, they used to have meetings with adolescent girls, where they used to tell them the side effect of such marriages.

“We elaborate how it adversely affect a girl child’s life. We ensure participation of village level community, women help group, NGO etc., in this campaign. We also got women and child development ministry and education department involved in it,” the officer said.

Along with this, a special task force was formed with the help of the village sarpanch and other people and an awareness campaign was launched in every village of the district to stop child marriage. Committees were also formed at the level of village panchayats and notified area councils consisting of sarpanch, anganwadi workers and ASHA members to prevent child marriages.

A total of 14,422 meetings were held at various levels in the last two years to prevent child marriage. Children saved from child marriages were sent to Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) for assistance and counselling. Also, registration of every marriage helped to find out about child marriages in Ganjam district. A total of 48,383 marriages were registered in 2020-21, but there was not a single child marriage.

TRACKING SYSTEM

The officer further informed Indian Masterminds that they used to track adolescent girls through the school system. Heads of all educational institutions were directed to inform the administration if a girl child in the age group of 12 to 18 years is absent from school for five days. “If any girl is absent for more than 4 or 5 days, then we used to track why she is absent. Is a marriage in the offing or something else? So, as per our SOP, we interact with her family and find out the reason. Our team used to personally visit and counsel the family and the girl.”

SKOCH Award for such initiative and good work

Almost one lakh adolescent girls have been counselled in the last two years.

CASH PRIZE

A provision of giving cash reward to the person giving information about child marriage in the district was made. Mr. Kalunge said, “We also declared cash awards for anyone informing about child marriages. Earlier it was Rs 5,000 but now we have increased it to Rs 50,000. We have given it to 3 persons till date.”

WARNED PEOPLE WHO CONDUCT MARRIAGES

The district administration also interacted with the priests who conduct marriage rituals and warned them against conducting child marriage rituals, otherwise FIR would be lodged against them. We advised them to see Aadhar card of the couple before agreeing to conduct the rituals.

TWO YEARS’ HARD WORK PAID OFF

The hard work of the administration paid off and the last two years saw no child marriage in Ganjam. Mr. Kulange said,“After two years of hard work, we rechecked the data since the beginning of this program and found out that we have stopped more than 450 child marriages in two years. After going through all the data from the village level, gram panchayat level, block level, sub-division level, we realized that there has been no child marriage in our district in the last two years. So, we declared our district child marriage free.”

This declaration was made after proper verification by Block Development Officers, Tahsildars, Executive Officers of NAC and Child Marriage Prohibition Officers, who are recommended by the ward/village level Task Force Committees. The district now has 3,309 child marriage free villages, 280 child marriage free wards and 503 child marriage free gram panchayats under Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).

https://twitter.com/Ganjam_Admin/status/1478005690111119360?s=20

WHY CHILD MARRIAGES WERE PREVALENT

According to 2011 data, there were 59.9 lakh girls in Odisha under the age of 15 years. Of these, 41,729 girls were married before the age of 18. Along with this, one fourth of these girls, i.e. 10,685 girls, were married before the completion of 15 years. Poverty, social insecurity, dowry and other traditions are the reasons behind such child marriages.

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