In Pakistan, where females suffer from discrimination throughout the life cycle, adolescent girls often suffer the worst. Already considered as young women, they are often confined to the four walls of the home without any opportunities for education, knowledge, skills or even simply the company of other young girls. Facing discrimination from the time of birth, more girl children die compared to boys, before reaching the age of 5 years. Fewer girls are enrolled in schools compared to boys and more girls drop out before completing five years of education. Of those girls who complete primary education, the majority cannot dream of secondary or higher education. Skills training and income generation opportunities for girls are almost non-existent. Most families invest in the future of male children while for girls marriage is seen as the ultimate future, for which they must wait and prepare themselves. Due to lack of opportunities, there are few females in rural areas or urban slums who break out of the stereotyped roles to which girls and women have been relegated. As a result they continue to be seen as having lesser abilities than males and are given a lower status in the family and community. This further perpetuates the vicious cycle of discrimination and preference for sons. This initiative was designed to address the problems faced by adolescent girls in rural areas and urban slums throughout Pakistan.
CHILD MARRIGES AND GIRLS HEALTH IN PAKISTAN- PROJECT METHODOLOGY
We work in communities who are prone to use girls as a barter source to resolve their generation's long disputes by marrying them to elderly men. Therefore, most of the vulnerable girls have no access to education facilities. In order to address this problem, we execute multi tiered approaches including community theatre within community centers and particularly for men and policy makers. We also conduct community women sessions to sensitize the girls and women to ask for their rights as the country has several legal frameworks to prohibit the early aged marriages. This practice has helped reduce the ratio of early childhood marriages within the targeted communities.
The correlation between education, age of marriage and reproductive health behaviour is now a well established fact. Education delays marriage and in turn early childbirth. PDHS 2007 shows that women who have gone for higher education entered into marriage later (median age of 24.5 years-- 6 years later than those with no education), those with secondary education had their first birth later (at the median age of 23 compared to 1 The authors would like to acknowledge inputs made by Ayesha Mir in the paper's first draft. 2 Giving Girls Today and Tomorrow: Breaking the Cycle of Adolescent Pregnancy. UNFPA, 2007 2 median age of 21 for those without education) and are ten times less likely to start early childbearing (ones with no education start by age 19). Similarly PDHS 2007 reports a dramatic increase in contraceptive use with women's education - more than secondary educated are twice as likely to use family planning methods, than those with no education (43% vs 25%). Knowledge of HIV-AIDS and its prevention was also found to be higher in women with higher education. It is obvious from the above that a woman's life has to be seen from the life cycle perspective. Decisions made in early childhood about marriage or education, for instance, have far reaching consequences for the girl who gets deprived of her adolescence but also her children and the country as a whole. There are multiple imperatives driving the decisions: customary practices that in Pakistan vary with locations (rural, urban) and geographical regions, caste, clan and other group identities, poverty, the level of development and accompanying available services (schools and health in particular), access to information and the prevailing laws. Young age/child marriages are a manifestation of deep rooted gender discrimination that gets further perpetuated by the practice. The focus of this paper is primarily laws that govern the age of marriage in Pakistan in the context of customary practices and poverty. The fact that there are multiple laws applicable is compounded by the lack of knowledge about them among the general population. Hence the urgent need to examine the anomalies between them and develop strategies to address the issue of early age marriage in a composite and effective way.
How has their involvement affected the project?
The active participation of girls and communities in this project gives us the confidence that the activities are based on the needs of the beneficiaries. It also means that there is increased acceptance and ownership of the initiative - which in its turn results in better impact and ultimately leads to behaviour changes.
How has their involvement affected them personally?
The girls and communities have increased confidence in the project implementation team and in themselves. They see it as their initiative and not something that is imposed by outsiders. Girls learn to listen to the views of others and understand the significance of participation. Families and communities observe participation of girls in decision making for the project activities and start attaching greater importance to the views of girls.
The youth groups are offered a five days training program which gathers both boys and girls in segregated groups to directly address the components of reproductive health. This training model is applicable for adolescents (young boys and girls) with the prime objective of helping them lead a normal and healthy reproductive life as an adult.
The objectives of this model are to:
In-house interactive lectures, individual assignments, group work, simulations, presentation and brainstorming sessions.
Training Duration:05 days
No. of training:112
No. of participants:3659