Community Mobilization Through Advocacy

The KGBV schools educate girls until grade 8, after which they must transition to other schools. The education from grade 6 to grade 8 at the KGBV is free of cost and residential, making it the cheapest avenue for parents from the weakest economic backgrounds. When girls leave the KGBV, they are about 13 years of age and are considered to be 'women' in the eyes of the community. In the family they are seen as another mouth to feed. These factors culminate in pressures that push the girls into forced child marriages. Child marriage is one of the greatest threats to a girl's life and liberty. Aarohini acts out of the belief that we should stop euphemizing child marriage by calling it a "marriage" and call it what it really is - slavery. India's Daughters Campaign sets out to do exactly this.

Over the years, India's Daughters Campaign (IDC) has been fighting to keep girls in school by mobilising and engaging teachers, students, civil society, faith leaders and girls' education champions in the discussion on the importance of providing a safe space for girls to learn.

The fifth edition of the India's Daughters Campaign (IDC 2017), which began in February 2017, aimed at collaborating with the government representatives, civil society, faith leaders and nonprofits in the state of Uttar Pradesh (India) to put forward a united front against child marriage.

With the aim of bringing all the stakeholders under one roof, meetings with the partner organisations were held in February 2017. Almost all the organisations that participated in the meetings recognised the accomplishments of the India's Daughters Campaign over the past four years, and vowed to join hands and work for exponential growth of IDC 2017's outreach.

The meetings were followed up with an action plan for IDC 2017, and a campaign kit was designed and mailed to over 500 government schools across the state of Uttar Pradesh. Each school participated in competitions that would incite discussions on child marriage and also in an awareness march against child marriage in their neighbouring community. These awareness marches then went to the local faith leaders to obtain a signed pledge against child marriage. Along with teachers and students, community members and the local police force also marched for the cause.

Advocacy meetings with state government representatives

As part of advocacy against child marriage and the India's Daughter Campaign 2017, a contingent lead by Dr. Urvashi Sahni held separate meetings with the Deputy Chief Minister, Governor and Women and Child Welfare Minister of Uttar Pradesh. A memorandum with specific recommendations was also presented to them.

The Deputy Chief Minister, Governor, and Women and Child Welfare Minister pledged their support and forwarded the memorandum to the concerned departments for appropriate action.

This memorandum requested the government to act on the following points:
  • Mobilise all local law enforcement agencies and officers to ally with the school as they campaigned against child marriage.
  • Instruct police officers in each district to join the India’s Daughters Campaign’s awareness march led by the schools and help create an atmosphere of lawfulness.
  • Organise a district level meeting of all the officers responsible for stopping crime and violence against children with schools and share their contact details with the schools.
  • Organise training and discussions for government officials to help formulate a strategy to fight child marriage.

As a result of these efforts, the India’s Daughters Campaign has successfully set child marriage on the agenda at a state level. Both the Uttar Pradesh state government and the Women and Child Welfare Department have adopted the recommendations made in the memorandum, and orders were issued in this respect. Over the course of last four months the press and media agencies have not only covered the developments of the campaign but also researched vulnerable areas and called the state government officials to task.