It is a well-known fact that even before COVID-19, girls in India were forced into child marriage, with one in three of the world’s child brides living in India. But there has been a surge in child marriage today and the reasons and the data for that is widely documented. For example, according to Childline, there was a 17 percent increase in distress calls linked to early marriage of girls in June and July 2020, compared to 2019. This surge in child marriage is due to the belief that it will salvage the family from financial distress.

More than a year into the pandemic, our government systems continue to be overburdened, schools remain shut, and economic stress seems endless. The crisis of child marriage deserves renewed attention and urgency. But is that enough?

Responding to child marriage can be simplified down to a range of approaches and strategies. But, at Aangan, our experience shows us that the quiet, yet unwavering, leadership that our women child protection volunteers have demonstrated in the midst of this crisis is the common influence across every story, case, or situation. Over the last year, through our women child protection volunteers who have been trained to protect and prevent harm and exploitation to children, we have been able to avert 481 child marriages across five states.

Through an analysis of the trends and cases where marriages were successfully delayed, we advocate for three key strategies that our child protection volunteers implemented and have worked for us.

  1. Build social capital
  2. Leverage the power of dialogue and negotiation
  3. Enhance girls’ own preparedness to self-report

Read the full article about child protection from marriage by Chaitali Sheth at India Development Review.