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In Nepal, celebration focuses on enabling girls to reach their potential

© UNICEF Nepal/2012/Pandey
Adolescents celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child in Kathmandu, Nepal. The first International Day of the Girl Child focused on the issue of child marriage.

The inaugural International Day of the Girl Child was 11 October 2012. For more information, click here.

By Deepa Rai

KATHMANDU, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, 18 October 2012 - On the occasion of the first International Day of the Girl Child, the global community focused its attention on the challenges girls face and promoted the empowerment of girls and the fulfillment of their rights.

Nepal celebrated the day with a major event attended by Vice President the Right Honourable Paramananda Jha. The focus of the event was the launch, early next year, of Nepal’s first National Plan of Action on Adolescents, and the issue of child marriage.

Child marriage in Nepal

In Nepal, 5 per cent of girls under 15 and one third of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 are married. According to the National Demographic Health Survey 2011, 23 per cent of women had given birth before the age of 18, while almost half (48 per cent) had given birth by the age of 20.

Girls with no education are three times more likely to be married before their eighteenth birthday, compared to girls with some secondary education. Education is one of the best strategies for protecting girls and combating child marriage.

© UNICEF Nepal/2012/Pandey
Shyam Sundari Kewat was married as a child and had her first child when she was 16. She has completed her education and now raises awareness about child marriage and serves as an inspiration for young girls.

Shyam Sundari Kewat was married as a child. She does not recall how old she was. She does remember being sent to her new husband’s house at the age of 12. She was 16 when she gave birth to her first child.

And she remembers bleeding for three months following the birth – and yet continuing to take care of her child.

But Ms. Kewat considers herself to be relatively fortunate. “I feel lucky, as I had a very supportive husband. With his help, I started studying at the age of 20,” she says.

She has passed the examination for the School Leaving Certificate and is an active member of the community, channelling energy into awareness-raising on child marriage. “I run a radio programme raising awareness on child marriage, and I also perform in street dramas to inform and educate children on the value of education,” she says. “I feel proud when girls tell me that I inspire them.”

A commitment to advancing girls’ rights

The United Nations agencies have made a commitment to work collectively for the advancement of the rights of adolescent girls in Nepal, particularly through support for the National Plan of Action on Adolescents. UNICEF Representative Hanaa Singer spoke on behalf of the United Nations in Nepal, pointing out that everyone needs to be involved: “By accelerating actions with and for girls, girls will be empowered. And, in this society, it is important to realize that it is not about men losing power or respect when they enable girls to reach their potential, it is about everyone – all of us – living more productive and positive lives.”

Ms. Singer reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations system to incorporating adolescent perspectives within its work in Nepal.



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