WCD Department Launches SAP To End Child Marriage In Odisha

24 October 2019

Debashish Maharana

Bhubaneswar: The Department of Women & Child Development (WCD) and Mission Shakti with support of UNICEF & UNFPA has launched a Strategic Action Plan (SAP) to end child marriage in Odisha. A conference in this regard was organised in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday.

Inaugurating the conference, articulating her concern regarding the relatively high prevalence of Child Marriage in some districts, WCD Minister Tukuni Sahu said that there is immediate need to take all possible steps by government, civil society, international bodies and communities to stop this social evil which is strongly embedded in social practices.

Around 500 participants including CDPO/CMPOs (Child Marriage Prohibition Officers), Social welfare officer, DCPOs (District Child Protection Officers) from all the districts of the State, SHG representatives, representatives from Education, SC/ST, Home department, CSOs, etc. participated in the conference.

A State Strategic Action Plan and new rules on prevention of child marriage was released and an audio-visual on child marriage screened during the conference. The WCD department felicitated six girls who said No to child marriage as champions of ending child marriage and CMPOs and DCPOs for outstanding action against child marriage.

Principal Secretary of WCD department, Anu Garg, emphasised on all actions that are being taken up by the government to prevent this issue. The prevalence of child marriage has reduced substantially but the pace of reduction has to be accelerated to ensure that Odisha is child marriage free by 2030. She emphasised the importance of convergence amongst different departments like police, school and mass education, judiciary, higher education and skill development who have key roles in preventing occurrences of child marriage.

Director, Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) & Social Welfare, Aravind Agarwal, made the welcome address with the status of child marriage in Odisha, key determinants of child marriage and emphasizing the roles and responsibilities of departmental functionaries especially the newly designated CMPOs in the districts.

While all departments and international bodies pledged their commitment to prevention of child marriage in the State, Mission Shakti Director Sujata R Karthikeyan explained the role of SHG towards ending of child marriage.

Also key messages on child marriage were released by Tiki Mausi, mascot of WCD department and Mission Shakti. While UNFPA State Programme Coordinator Deepa Prasad discussed about the child marriage situation in Odisha, Chief of field office, UNICEF, Odisha, Monika Nielsen discussed on the key drivers of Child marriage in Odisha.

The prevalence of child marriages among girls in Odisha was reported to be 21.3 per cent against a national average of 26.8, whereas for boys it is only 11 per cent against the national average of 20.3 percent (NFHS-4, 2015-16). Odisha witnessed a decline of nearly 16 and 11 percentage points (between NFHS 2005-06 and 2015-16), for girls and boys marrying before the legal ages of 18 and 21 years, respectively. Still one in five women aged 20-24 years were married by the age of 18 in Odisha.

Child marriage has a significant negative impact on an individual's physical, mental, emotional and social development, and on education and economic opportunities. Both girls and boys are affected by child marriage, but girls are affected in much larger numbers and with greater intensity.

The State Strategic Action Plan (2019-2024) is a comprehensive and time bound approach to accelerate actions to deal with the complexities of ending child marriage. The SAP is expected to serve as a "multi layered and multi sectoral intervention" that aims at eliminating child marriage. Actions outlined in the strategic focus areas would be implemented with strong linkages among all stakeholders and coordination across all tiers of governance, synergistic and coordinated efforts by multiple departments would be the key to achieving the goal set to end child marriage.

Tukuni sahu, Minister, W & CD, Odisha