Nisha stands against odds

Monday 2 March 2020

16-year-old Nisha warned her uncle that she would go to the police if he tries to take his 15-year-old daughter to India to get her married. Her warning stopped the planned ceremony. Unable to make them realize that marriage at an early age is damaging through sensible conversations, Nisha had to threaten them, for which she had to sacrifice the familial bond. Now, no one in her uncle’s family speaks to her. But this does not deter Nisha from saving the lives of girls of her age.

 Nisha has stopped two child marriages of her community in one and half years’ time. The Para Social Worker (PSW) and staffs of the GBV (project against Gender Based Violence) project support her efforts of saving young girls from the clutches of child marriage. “It is difficult to stop child marriage. I feel bad particularly when the girls who are aware of the hazards of such marriages agree to get married because of family pressure and in the hope of bettering their lives”, Nisha says. Nisha knows what she is fighting for and what sacrifices it demands. “Standing against my own people is difficult but saving lives of young girls is more important”, she adds.

 She is a member of an Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) group formed by the GBV project. She learnt about the adverse effects of child marriage at the Adolescent Development Interactive sessions which runs every Friday. In the sessions, the members of the group discuss on gender-based violence, reproductive health and life skills.

 Nisha is also known in her community for standing up against boys who tried to tease and verbally abuse her on her way back home from school. While her friends ran away when a group of boys blocked their way, Nisha chose to defend herself. When the attempts of talking some sense into them did not work and one of the boys pulled her bicycle and grabbed her, she used one of the moves she learnt at the self-defense training on the boy. “I myself did not believe that I could stand up to a boy. But I believed in my strength and fought with three more boys who fell on the ground and ran away,” she says. The shopkeepers and passersby were also in awe of what she did. “It is uncommon in our community for a girl to be strong and fight back against abuse”, Nisha adds.

 In May 2019, Nisha and her group participated in the self-defense training where they learnt to protect themselves during attacks and sexual abuse. “Along with skills, the training gave these girls the confidence to fight against discrimination and abuse”, says Hajra Shabnam, Project Coordinator of GBV project in Sarlahi. In 2019, 320 girls from 16 AGYW groups received self-defense training.

 Nisha however was not this confident when she first joined the group. “It took us three hours to complete the introduction session with 20 girls”, says Banita, who works as a psychosocial counsellor in the project. “None of them were ready to speak”, she adds. With time, they opened up and started interacting in the weekly sessions. Regular interaction provided girls with knowledge which boosted their confidence.

 Nisha’ father tried to stop her from attending the sessions when her brother, who is in Malaysia, was told by some villagers that she was in bad company. Nisha however convinced her family that the sessions were informative and useful for her life. Now, her family supports her. Nisha makes sure that she receives good grades in school, the only condition on which her parents allowed her to attend the sessions. The sessions run on Fridays so that the girls can join after school.

 The GBV project envisions the community where adolescent girls and young women will have access to support groups, economic opportunities, and they will feel protected. The project has reached 720 girls and young women directly.