Women, young women and married girls from YWCA of Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) along with representatives from World YWCA in Geneva, visited the project in the districts of Sonepat and Panipat, Haryana, India. Coordinated by YWCA of India and PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia), the project is implemented for supporting married girls and ending Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) in the mentioned countries. They also visited the Women’s Police Station in Panipat where they were able to interact with Ms. Rajni, Protection Officer about the issues of Child marriage in Haryana and strong supporter of the right implementation of the Law against CEFM.
Delegates from Ethiopia shared that women face similar challenges, as there are no grievance system for women who are in need for immediate intervention. The team also spent time in the villages of Mahra, Namunda and discussed about the issue of hygiene, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and how women are unsafe to go out for nature’s call, as there are no private toilets in some of the villages. Many young women and children face violence on a daily basis by the men from the nearby villages and from higher castes and also often face discrimination. Delegates studied the situation of these young girls who are forced to marry, because the family sometimes considers them as burden and how it affects their mental and physical health.
The delegates also praised about the Women Police Station as they felt that’s it’s important to create a safe space for these young girls when they report any such case.
“I used to go to school. I am from a lower caste so the male teachers kept me separate and would bully me but still I continued attending school. One day on the way back from school a man from a higher caste raped me. My parents and I felt hopeless because since he was from a higher caste and my family are nomads they felt like there was nothing they could do. To protect me, my parents decided to marry me. They understood the dangers of marrying me at 14 and that I could suffer abuses from my husband, and from my in-laws who were barely older than me. However, being married meant that I would stay inside the house, which would keep me safe from the increase in violence on the roads around the community. I am 16 now. I am a mother. YWCA India and their local partner PRIA, come to my community and do Safe Spaces with us where we learn about our rights and our bodies. I am a model for the other girls because I want to continue going to school and I can talk to the families to delay the age that they marry their daughters. I go to all the Safe Spaces meeting and I always participate. I know a lot of the answers now to their questions and I want to teach my children these things when they grow up. I am really happy that I participated in the meeting with YWCA India, DRC, Ethiopia and World YWCA. It is my first time travelling this far. I didn’t know that girls in those countries were married too. The girls and I shared a lot of stories and now I know we have a lot of things in common but a lot of things that are different too. I liked learning that they have Safe Spaces too. I want to continue with the Safe Spaces that YWCA India and Pria do with us and get even more girls to come. ” Testimony of a married girl in Haryana