Her Turn’s Radio Debut

Her Turn is teaming up with Oxfam to raise awareness about child marriage. Check out the radio drama we co-created here!

radio-debutFour months have now passed since Nepal’s Great Earthquake and villages continue to struggle to get back to normal life. There has been a lot of discussion about trafficking concerns, and NGOs and families are stepping up their game in vigilance against this danger. But the underlying problems that lead to trafficking do not go away when a girl is rescued at the border, or when her family makes the brave decision to say no to a job offer for her in the capital. The poverty and limited opportunities for work and income generation remain. Cultural practices, like the dowry system, aggravate the problem – a girl’s dowry price increases as she ages, so families, especially ones living in poverty, have a big monetary incentive to marry their daughters early.

When resources are extremely limited, families face extremely tough choices. Some families worry they won’t have enough money or food to take care of everyone. Some parents may also worry that their maturing daughters may be at risk of trafficking, sexual violence, or rape. The post-earthquake conditions leave women and girls even more vulnerable to sexual violence than before. The tight and exposed living quarters of tents and tarpaulins mean girls are sometimes forced to sleep extremely closely with their male relatives, or even non-relatives from their communities. Going to the toilet can be a terrifying experience when toilets are far away, not gender segregated, lack door locks and exposed.

Despite clear laws against child marriage (the legal age to marry in Nepal is 18 with parental consent and 20 without), a desperate family may see this as the best option to keep their daughter safe and fed by her husband’s family. A girl herself might also feel the dual pulls of not wanting to burden her family and not wanting to risk a marriage to someone she doesn’t like if she doesn’t elope on her own first.

In reality, underage brides are less safe than their single counterparts. Young brides often lack the agency with their husbands and power in their in-laws families to speak up against domestic and sexual violence. A daughter-in-law typically occupies the lowest status in a family and may not get as much food as other family members and be made to do exhausting labor. Girls rarely stay in school after marriage, cutting off their friendships and potential to earn income and be self-sufficient later in life. And married women are expected to start families shortly after tying the knot, even if their young bodies are not yet ready for the enormous task. Girls with underdeveloped bodies are at high risk for complications during childbirth and their children are less likely to survive childhood.

Her Turn believes the best way to combat child marriage is through education about the risks of marrying early, and about the benefits of staying in school longer. Our workshops help girls understand these risks and benefits. They then share what they learn with their families and communities through community ceremonies. But in the post-disaster situation, we want to reach as many people as possible with this safety message. So we’ve teamed up with People in Need and Oxfam to produce a radio drama about two young girls navigating these issues in the village and coming up with their own solutions. The drama aired on Radio Sindhu, a community radio station with a long history of broadcasting public health and other critical information to Sindhupalchok. Radio is an incredibly powerful tool in the hills and one of the communication resources people continue to turn to after the earthquake.

Take a listen here!