Teenagers fighting for their rights

Bikram Godia at the back wearing a cap

Bikram Godia at the back wearing a cap and his friends of the child club at Janata Basic School in Duduwa of Banke. Photo by: Aarati Sharma/Oxfam

He was shocked to know that his parents had already accepted the proposal and were planning his wedding. The irony was he had just won a prize on his essay on preventing child marriage.

A young man against child marriage

By Aarati Sharma

“Winning the first position in an essay competition organised in my school turned my life forever,” says 16-year-old Bikram Godia, an eighth-grade student at Janata Basic School in Duduwa Rural Municipality, Banke.

Right after the essay competition in school, Bikram's relatives came from India with a marriage proposal. He was shocked to know that his parents had already accepted the proposal and were planning his wedding. The irony was he had just won a prize on his essay on preventing child marriage. Bikram refused the proposal right away and tried to convince his parents as he was underage. He wanted to complete his education and become independent. But his parents were adamant. Then Bikram threatened his parents saying he would go to police and report that they were getting him married off against his will. His parents and relatives tried to persuade him by getting engaged and get married after seven years. Bikram refused again saying he wouldn't commit for such a long period.  

Oxfam in Nepal's Creating Spaces project has been targeting schools to sensitize kids on child and forced marriages, that's how Bikram had participated in the essay competition. “After the project started in our school, we have been so familiar with the current situation of child marriage in Nepal and its legalities,” he said.

Bikram’s parents had to eventually drop the marriage proposal but were unhappy with Creating Spaces project as they thought it made him go against his parents' will. But after continuous interactions by social mobilizer Brijlal Yadav and Bikram himself, they now understand that were pushing their son something punishable by the law. "Bikram has become a role-model for stopping his own marriage. People in his and near-by communities mention his name whenever there is any child marriage case by force,” said Brijlal.

“My parents now want to see me as a successful and highly educated person. They don’t bother me with marriage proposals," said Bikram smiling. “He is the hero of our school. We give his example to all the children of our school and community,” said Shiva Sapkota, Vice-Principal of the school. Through the Creating Spaces project, a total of 58 cases of child marriages have been stopped in Banke, Rautahat, Baitadi, and Dailekh.

Quest to go back to school

By Astha Rijal

Fourteen-year-old Nisha Kumari Patel lives with her parents in the village of Narkatiya, Paroha Municipality. When she was studying in grade six, one of her friends eloped with a guy. Because of that incident, her parents decided to withdraw her from school.

After dropping out of school she spent her time helping her mother with household works and taking care of their livestock. On April 2017 when Chand Community Discussion Centre was established in Narrkatiya under Creating Spaces project, she wanted to be a part of it. "At first, my parents didn’t allow me," she says adding, "But Rani Sah, facilitator of the CDC, and some of my friends persuaded them to let me be involved."

At the CDC, Nisha learned about girls' and women's rights, child early and forced marriages, violence against women and girls, menstrual hygiene, importance of education. She also participated at exchange learning programmmes organized by the project and she decided to go back to school.

"I was determined to go back to school but my mother wanted me to get married. So one day I took her to CDC. We had a very long discussion at the CDC and my mom was convinced to send me back to school." Nisha goes to school and is an eighth grader at Om Lower Secondary School, and wants to become a nurse in future.