JAGRITI: Stop Child Marriage Campaign
To further youth engagement on ending child marriage, Pathfinder is incubating a youth-led and youth-centric campaign—JAGRITI (which means ‘awakening’ in Hindi) in Bihar, a state with high rates of child marriage. JAGRITI is led by a youth council of unmarried girls and boys, many of whom are graduates of a Pathfinder training program in the PRACHAR project. These youth have made a commitment to raise awareness and secure a million signatures to stop child marriage. All participating youth are volunteers, as are the leadership council members.
“JAGRITI is an inspiration to those in the community. These youth are our future, and clearly making a significant difference,” Pinki Kumari, Pathfinder India Project Officer, said.
In February 2012, a delegation of The Elders, made an unprecedented visit to India in connection with the global Girls Not Brides campaign and met with JAGRITI youth leaders in Bihar as well as senior politicians and the Chief Minister. The delegation, including Ela Bhatt (founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India), Mary Robinson (former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), Gro Harlem Bruntland (former Prime Minister of Norway and head of WHO) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel prize-winning South African cleric and activist) helped focus great attention on JAGRITI and Pathfinder for finding novel ways to promote and foster community ownership and youth leadership in tackling a deep-seated socio-cultural issue.
Mary Robinson applauded JAGRITI leaders for their courage, “In many places it is the mothers, the fathers, the community, but what we like about JAGRITI is that you are giving leadership. Here we are very impressed that you are the ones deciding for yourselves and we want to encourage you.”
The Chief Minister of Bihar has thanked JAGRITI members and Pathfinder, setting the stage for a high-level advocacy partnership to stop child marriage.
Pathfinder staff have helped to establish 25 Manchs (a Manch is a youth group) in eight districts of Bihar and to register a total of almost 10,000 youth to participate in this campaign. A total of 34,275 signatures have been collected, and 65,000 community people have been reached through various mass awareness activities.
Focus Area: Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health
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Dr. Tauseef Ahmed, Pakistan country director of Pathfinder International, a non-profit organisation working to improve adolescent and youth access to sexual and reproductive health services in more than 30 countries, says that early pregnancy is not uncommon among teenage brides. In fact, having a baby is a way of proving one’s fertility, and the values of adolescent pregnancy are “protected by women and girls themselves,” he told IPS.
On June 16, with funding from the Ford Foundation, Pathfinder International in Egypt, in conjunction with the National Population Council, launched a new national strategy for preventing child marriage.