UNFPA and REC initiative use mobile phones to prevent child marriage in Rajasthan

In a bid to strengthen the fight against social ills like child marriage, a joint initiative of the Government of Rajasthan, the Women Empowerment and Rural Electrification (REC) Directorate has now been designed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Launched on Women’s Day in 2019, the “Naubat Baja” project has widely promoted practices such as child marriage and gender discrimination using mobile phones. The mission is banking on cellphones being a “preferred mode of communication, particularly in areas without other access to television entertainment”.

The ‘Naubat Baja’ project saw its initiative turn into a success when Sapna, a young girl from Jaipur, asked for help when she was about to marry a 30-year-old man. She was spotted by Shreya, a volunteer from Jeevan Ashram Sansthan (JAS), an NGO working for the empowerment of women. She intervened and contacted the “Naubat Baja” hotline, which led the police to take action. The girl still in primary school was married off as compensation for her father’s unpaid debt to a moneylender, the groom’s father. After police intervention, Sapna is now back at her school.

Project “Naubat Baja”

It can be noted that Naubat is a set of musical instruments, once played to attract people’s attention. The mission, in its new incarnation, is a brainchild of the Rajasthan government to address adolescent wellbeing, empowerment and health issues. The poster is part of a campaign by “Naubat Baja” Missed Call Radio, a cloud-based radio station in Rajasthan, UN News reported.

While child marriage is banned across India, at least 1.5 million girls under the age of 18 are still married each year. This number would represent a third of the world total. Currently, almost 16% of adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19, that is shortly after reaching puberty, are married for reasons such as non-payment of debts, according to UNICEF. A deeply rooted social norm, child marriage, is a glaring example of the widespread gender equality and discrimination still practiced in India. However, in recent years, significant progress has been made in reducing social evil through initiatives such as the “Naubat Baja” project, which examines the heart of the problem and acts quickly to relieve a child of undue misery.

UNICEF says 100 million girls are at risk due to child marriage

As NGOs and women’s empowerment groups continue to work to eliminate widespread social inequalities, a March report released by UNICEF in 2021 reported that nearly 100 million girls are at risk of early marriage in the country. course of the next decade. School closures due to the two-year pandemic have caused economic stress for rural sections of society, leaving huge numbers of young girls vulnerable to the possibility of child marriage. “Families struggling to support themselves prefer to marry off girls even if they are not yet of age. This would mean fewer mouths to feed,” JAS director Radhika Sharma told the UN. Biases like early marriage mean a safe haven and married women are less likely to experience physical violence to fuel child marriage, Sharma added.

(Image: PTI)