INDEPENDENT NEWS

Nepal: Girl Cricketers Who Successfully Campaigned To End Child Marriage Play In First Provincial Tournament

Published: Fri 8 Mar 2024 10:48 AM
Teams of girl cricketers who joined forces on and off the pitch to campaign against child marriage are taking part in their first provincial ‘all-girls’ tournament after their successful campaign to end child marriage in two municipalities.
The tournament covers Madhesh and Koshi Provinces and is taking place from 5 to 8 March with the final coinciding with International Women’s Day.
Ria-, 16, from Khadak Municipality, is the chairperson of her cricket club and a player in the regional tournament. Ria- is also a passionate advocate for ending child marriage. She said:
"When we're playing cricket, we hit [the] ball away with our bat. Similarly...we can hit away the child marriage."
Save the Children and local partner Sabal Nepal have supported girls' cricket clubs to campaign against child marriage.
Local authorities declared Surunga municipality the first ‘child marriage-free’ municipality in Madhesh Province in November 2022, with the number girls and boys who are married under the age of 18, decreasing from a baseline of around 36% to 4% of the child population. They were followed by Khadak municipality in December 2023 where the rate of child marriage fell from around 20% to 7%. Success was measured using indicators such as a notable decline in cases of child marriage, improved reporting and a commitment to ending the practice from local authorities, parents and children.
Save the Children and Sabal Nepal have been working with local governments, the police, schools, teachers, community health workers, and community leaders to raise awareness, as well as advocating for stronger frameworks to end child marriage in Surunga and Khadak municipalities. Seven other districts in Madhesh Province are preparing to declare themselves child marriage-free by 2030.
Child marriage is a serious human rights violation that disproportionately affects adolescent girls, although boys can also be impacted.Ria-’s older sister was married as a child. She said:
"Girls get married in our community at a very early age. Despite knowing it’s wrong, girls my age are forced to get married."
South Asia has the world's highest number of child brides, with around one in four young women first married or in union before their 18th birthday, according to UNICEF. There are around 5.3 million child brides in Nepal, despite it being illegal to marry under the age of 20.
The girls cricket team was established in 2018 by Save the Children and Sabal Nepal. There are now six girls' cricket teams, across two provinces. One player from each of the six cricket teams is taking part in the regional tournament.
Members of the cricket team use street performances, rallies and public debates to raise awareness of the devastating impact child marriage has on girl’s education, health and wellbeing, in addition to putting them at high risk of sexual abuse and violence. The teams also provide information on how to report cases to the authorities. Ria- said:
"We staged dramas on child marriage, conducted door-to-door campaigns, played cricket, and now our ward has been declared as child marriage free!"
Members of the cricket clubs also overcome gender stereotypes in their families and communities, as cricket is traditionally viewed as a male sport. Ria- said:
"Girls and cricket! People used to be amused at first. Boys used to tell us, go do the household chores, cricket is for boys. But once we started our own girls cricket team, and started bringing home trophies and prizes, their negative perception changed entirely."Tara Chettry, Country Director, Save the Children Nepal, said:
"Child marriage robs children of their childhoods. It is deeply rooted in patriarchal beliefs, and harms children and their futures. It’s critical that we put an end to this practice which is so damaging to children and the best way to do this is through empowering children and communities to demand change."
The cricket teams are provided with equipment, such as cricket bats, balls, pads, stumps and gloves, in addition to access to a sports ground.

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