Fighting for a brighter future

Fighting for a brighter future

Upendra Patra, 45, belongs to Kalahandi, Odisha. He has been fighting against rampant child marriage practice within the Gond community through the help of Oxfam's Creating Spaces project. 

This is his story 
Child marriage was a regular phenomenon in our society-it was not a serious issue. Nobody was aware of the negative impact of child marriage on the physical and mental health of a young girl. But, ever since we attended regular meetings and child marriage sensitization programmes offered by NAWO (National Alliance of Women in Odisha) we learned about domestic violence, all legal aspects and the impact of child marriage on a child’s physical and mental health.

Now, if there is any child marriage taking place, the first step is to verify their age with valid government documents, like an Aadhaar card or school certificate. We demand both aspiring groom and bride’s families to submit a proof of age before solemnizing their marriage. This has now become mandatory in our society and it has helped to flag early marriages in our tribal society. 

We verify that the age of the girl/ bride-to-be isn’t below 18 years, the legal age for girls to marry in India. In our tribal Gond society, we have also made a rule that the minimum education level of young boys and girls marrying should be at least class 12, and if they want they can study further. We have convinced parents of these young children to follow these rules which are for the betterment of their children. We have also formed a woman’s group that also helps to sensitize parents against child marriage.

What is Creating Spaces?
Creating Spaces is an Oxfam Canada flagship project that takes action to reduce violence against women and girls (VAWG), including child, early and forced marriage in 6 countries - Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, and Nepal.

By helping change the attitudes, behaviours, and systems that perpetuate violence against women and girls through-

  1. Creating spaces for support: Women who experience violence often lack access to support services. Creating Spaces improves access to social services, medical assistance, counselling, job training, and legal aid. Support provides women with tools to take control of their lives and to build a better future.
  2. Creating spaces for justice: Laws often exist, but go unenforced or unchallenged. Creating Spaces works with legal professionals and community leaders to uphold the rights of women and girls. We educate women to better understand  - and fight for - their right to a life free of violence.
  3. Creating spaces for change: Creating Spaces facilitates knowledge-sharing between local partners and countries to generate widespread change. We help individuals and institutions connect, share, learn and adapt approaches to ending violence against women and girls.

Over 5 years, Creating Spaces will: 

  • Change how communities think about violence and the acceptance of violence.
  • Provide support to women and girls who have experienced violence.
  • Strengthen women & girls' rights, leadership, and engagement.
  • Help institutions and networks get the tools they need to influence change.

You can help Oxfam empower more women by donating today!

Photo by Atul Loke. Text compiled by Caroline Leal, Oxfam Canada for Creating Spaces project.

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