Changing mindsets, ending child marriage

A religious leader in far-western Nepal helps end child marriage by changing traditional mindsets

Nahida Banu, Sanju Bhattarai and Sharmina Manandhar
Adolescents in Gujara Municipality of Rautahat District perform a skit as part of UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme on Ending Child Marriage
UNICEF Nepal/2018/KPanday

03 July 2018

Baitadi, Nepal – A religious leader in far-western Nepal is helping end child marriage in his community by changing traditional mindsets.

When Hari Prasad Joshi found out that a 15-year-old girl in his community was getting married off by her family, he quickly sprung into action.

Mr. Joshi visited the girl’s family and found out that it was because of her grandfather that the family was in a hurry to get her married. The grandfather, who was the same age as Mr. Joshi, believed that he would receive a place in heaven if he washed the young bride and groom’s feet and drank the water before his death.

As a religious leader, Mr. Joshi tried to convince the family that the traditional belief was wrong and it was more important to invest in the girl’s education. “This is not a good deed, it is a sin,” said Mr. Joshi about the child marriage.

Mr. Joshi explained to the family that marriage before the age of 20 is a punishable crime as per the law of Nepal and that the family could end up in jail if they went ahead with the marriage. He also shared with the family a video detailing the harmful effects of child marriage. The family was still unconvinced, so he also sought the support of the local police. Finally, the family was convinced and stopped the marriage.

Mr. Joshi is one of the many religious leaders who received a two-day UNICEF-supported training provided by the Nepal Inter-Religious Network (NIRN). The training highlights the important role that religious leaders can play in helping end child marriage in their communities.

“I am committed to this cause and promise to use all my resources to help end child marriage,” 

Mr. Joshi has been going from village to village, school to school, to create awareness about the need to end child marriage.

Picture caption: Adolescents in Gujara Municipality of Rautahat District perform a skit as part of UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme on Ending Child Marriage.