Twenty-year-old Bipana Nepali has been actively working against child marriage ever since she escaped from the clutches of her own impending marriage two years ago.
Bipana, a resident of Harshahi in Dudhauli Municipality-6, Sindhuli district, is well aware of the evils of child marriage.
Bipana not only talks about the negative impact of child marriage but also the legal provisions allowed by law. Being privy to such information, according to her, was quite helpful when her own parents had decided to marry her off when she was just 18.
“Two years ago, my parents pressured me to get married, even threatening of consequences if I said no,” said Bipana. “But when I told them that it was illegal to marry me off at such a young age, they called off the wedding.”
The row with her parents still haunts her, Bipana said.
“I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I had married then. But there are young girls who give in to pressure and agree to get married early. I have started down this path so that I can help other girls stand up for themselves,” she said.
Bipana pays regular visits to villages in her area and raises awareness on the negative impact of child marriage. She also encourages parents and guardians to attend her workshops in a bid to educate them on the issue.
In the past two years, Bipana and her team have successfully stopped three child marriages in Harshahi. Harshahi, once infamous for its high rate of child marriage cases, was free of the practice this past year. The local people credit Bipana and her team for their successful campaign against the practice in the area.
“The villagers have learnt about the legal provisions and negative impacts of child marriage from Bipana,” said Ram Kumari Pariyar, Bipana’s neighbour.
Meanwhile, adolescent girls of Sunkoshi Rural Municipality have launched a drive against child marriage and have formed a network that carries out awareness campaigns.
“In the past six months, we stopped 10 child marriages in this area. The local people are gradually opening up towards learning about the ills of child marriage,” said Dipa Acharya, chairperson of the network.
As per the civil and criminal code, the legal age of marriage is 20 years for both men and women in Nepal.