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Meet Suwa

Child Marriage Girls' Rights Reproductive Health

Married at nine, now an advocate against child marriage.

Recalling her own marriage at the tender age of nine, 79-year-old Suwa tells us that in her community, she was considered to be getting married too late as most girls became brides by the age of seven.

“I had to face social stigma for marrying late. We had no access to information. There were no schools or any other opportunities. In such a situation, the law regarding child marriage was beyond our imagination. We only had the option to follow our ancient rituals and work in the fields,” says Suwa who comes from a rural community in Nepal’s Karnali province.

Suwa explains that she and her groom were strangers when they got married. It took her almost five years to understand that they were husband and wife. In the meantime, she fell pregnant on numerous occasions but lost four of her babies as her body was too underdeveloped to sustain the pregnancies. 

“Now, I have realised that I lost my babies due to early pregnancy. There was no one to advise us that child marriage and childbearing is life-threatening to both the mother and her babies,” says Suwa who went on to have four healthy children, two sons and two daughters.

Never too late to become an advocate

Despite her advancing years, Suwa is now an active advocate against child marriage in her community, spending her days walking around her village to share her story. She tells adolescent girls and their parents about the negatives aspects of early marriage and encourages girls to stay in school and only marry after reaching adulthood.

Suwa and a group of women from her community
Suwa, second from left, with a group of women in her community

45-year-old Amar also campaigns against child marriage in his community. Married at the age of 15, he is well aware of the many challenges that young husbands encounter and is committed to preventing future generations from being forced into unwanted marriages.

“I had to shoulder the responsibilities of generating an income for my family. In an environment where there are not many opportunities, I worked hard so that my family could have two meals every day. It was during these times that I realised the situation that child marriage brings to our lives. Now, I am determined my children will only marry after reaching the age specified by law,” says Amar.

Plan International works alongside our partner organisations to raise awareness about harmful traditional practices such as child marriage. Suwa and Amar were able to learn more about the consequences of child marriage, child rights and the importance of education after attending training sessions. They now go door-to-door to ensure that all the children in their community, especially girls, receive an education and are not forced to marry early.

By ending child, early and forced marriages, we believe that all children can enjoy the right to reach their full potential. Ensuring girls stay in school and have access to information about their sexual and reproductive health and rights will enable girls to make decisions about their futures.

Thinking back to her own wedding day 70 years ago, the thing Suwa remembers most was being dressed in new clothes. “It has been a long time since I got married. I was happy that I was wearing new clothes and jewellery, unaware that from that day forwards my life would change. It was customary to get married at an early age. During those days, society was not broad-minded like today. There was no awareness raising about the adverse effects of child marriage.”