Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nepali Society
Young saviour



NARESH NEWAR

Eight-year-old Resmi Gupta is rebellious and defiant. And to the children of Baskhora village, Kapilbastu, she's a hero.

Resmi has single-handedly rallied the other children in this remote, dusty village to fight against child marriage. That would be impressive anywhere, but this is the poorest, least literate village in the district with the most child marriages in Nepal.

Here, Resmi is extraordinary. "It is not easy to go door-to-door convincing parents to stop this evil practice," she told us. But undeterred, every week, Resmi and 36 friends from their child club take their anti-child marriage campaign around the neighbouring villages.

Resmi helped save Laxmi, her 15-year-old sister, from being married off a few months ago. She told their very conservative parents to "stop this marriage", fully expecting to be slapped down. Instead, they actually listened to Resmi as she told them how getting married-and bearing a child-so young could literally kill their daughter.

Nepal has one of the world's highest maternal mortality rates-nearly 6,000 girls and women die every year due to pregnancy-related complications, in large part because almost two-thirds of Nepali girls marry before they turn 18.

The advocacy is paying off in neighbouring villages too. Urmila Karki, 14, was married when she was six. As per gauna tradition, she has stayed at her parents' home but is now due to return to her husband's house. "I'd rather join Resmi to fight for our cause," she says quietly but firmly. Urmila is seeking help and protection from her friends in the children's club, as well as organisations like UNICEF and local NGO Rural Iliteracy Society Education that support it.

Although she spends much of her free time teaching others to make better choices, Resmi herself is too poor to afford formal education. She's now attending a 20-month out-of-school program run by RISE and UNICEF.

"We need education and awareness to convince both parents and children to stand up to child marriages, ancient tradition or not," says the feisty Resmi. With future leaders like this, we've got something to look forward to.

Naresh Newar in Kapilbastu



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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