I remembered that when I was 14 years old in 2001 and studying in grade 8 at community school of Surkeht

I remembered that when I was 14 years old in 2001 and studying in grade 8 at community school of Surkeht. Since that I am seeing the failure example of secondary level education that how it was not able to enhance girl’s decision making capacity on either choose marriage or complete higher education. In that time, our mid-term exam was going to start and one of my Dalit friend stopped to come to school and few days later I knew that she got married by family pressure and she was not spoke against it. A couple of month later I met her and asked why she did marriage. Easily she said, until or unless girls must have to do marry with someone and why should I not even the boy has good job in India. Likewise, my most of the Non/Dalit friends got married before grade 10 by either family pressure or their own desires. Nobody was raised voice against it. Similarly, I was also the possible victim of child marriage because, when I completed my SLC exam the marriage propose was came in my house frequently but I strictly refused that. At that time, I felt that do girls are born only for marriage or something else? Similarly, is the school education for only to increase the number of literate population or to make self-dependent, capacitate and decision maker citizen?
Likewise, throughout my professional experience over 8 years as a NGO worker, I found the changing trend of Dalit girl’s disempowerment. Before, the girls from rural communities were married due to family pressure and they had not an access on school education. But nowadays, girls have an access on school education and government of Nepal also has been taking initiatives to enroll all girls and boys in school. However, the school education is not able to retain all girls in school so girls when they reached in lower secondary they started to got eloped marriage. Thus, I always questioned that despite being in schools why are Dalit girls getting married in such early age? If it is not able to strength Dalit girl’s decision making and resistance capacity to fight against social malpractices such as early forced marriage, eloped marriage and so on. Is this a fault of Dalit girls or our school education system which could not been able to empower them, to internalize the importance of education and to promote the access and participation of Dalit girl’s in community school?
Introduction
Educational attainment and child marriage are inextricably linked; promoting education for girls can prevent child marriage (Mccleary et al, 2015). This assumption is not true in the context of Nepal, especially for Dalit girls. From my childhood to professional life experience, I experienced that still early marriage is easily accepted in Dalit community and even by Dalit young girls and it’s considered as a normal phenomenon of life. I have seen that despite the entering in school, Dalit girls are getting married at their early age and the education system of Nepal is not able to shape their understanding of their own gendering process and gender stereotype roles.
I have rarely seen that the girls from Dalit community are standing an against child marriage. That means the way they are learning at school is not able to create a deep and sustained transformation in gender relations. On the other hand, the consolidate equity strategic framework (2014) focus on the three equity areas; meaningful access, meaningful participation and meaningful learning outcomes of all students. Moreover, consolidate equity strategy internalized that due to the socio-cultural defined roles and perceptions towards girls, inequalities in education exist in term of meaningful access, meaningful participation and meaningful learning outcomes and it also said that schools explicitly and implicitly address and reinforce social and cultural norms and perceptions. Thus, despite the entering in school Dalit girls are reinforcing their understanding that until or unless girls have to have marriage and they have to do all gender stereotype roles. But, school has the possibilities and opportunities to empower Dalit girls and to make them capable to take right decision on their future.
The constitution 2015 has guaranteed that all children have right to live with dignity, freedom and to have free primary and higher secondary education. Although, the government has not made concrete strategy to promote girls’ meaningful learning outcome and to eradicate early marriage and even schools have not made a strategy to retain all girls in school. Likewise, SDG 4 and 5 directly linked with quality education and girl’s empowerment. SDG 4 is about to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all and SDG 5 is about to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Similarly, the SSDP 2016-2023 also aligned with the SDG 4. The major target of goal 4 is by 2030; ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes (NPC, 2015).
Despite the government’s policy against child marriage, in Nepal, 37% of Nepalese girls are married before the age of 18 and 10% girls are married before the age of 15 (Girls not Brides, 2017). Whereas, the government of Nepal marked that the age for marriage is 20 for girls and boys. On the other hand, UNICEF 2017 illustrate that Nepal has the 22nd international ranking and third highest rate of child marriage in Asia, after Bangladesh and India. That means huge numbers of girls are getting married in their very early age and depriving of their fundamental rights which have provided by the constitution. Likewise, SSDP married girls are 11 times more likely to be out of school and due to early marriage 17.2% girls dropped the school so it is the second most common reason for school drop-out for girls (MoE, 2016).
In this regard, I choose this issue for the deeper understanding of experiences of Dalit girl’s in school and how the schools are empowering Dalit girls, and enhancing their capacity to make right decision. Because, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education is the 4th goal and to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls is the 5th goal of SDG 2016- 2030. Likewise, SDG national preliminary report illustrate that Nepal has made good progress in primary education and substantial progress in ensuring equal access to education with gender parity in primary and secondary level school education. Besides this progress, we cannot ignore the fact that 17.2% girls are dropped the school due to early marriage (NLSS, 2011). Thus, to see the situation of girl’s empowerment in community school and how the school enhancing girls decision making capacity we need deeper study about the phenomena.
Statement of Problem
The consolidate equity strategy framework focuses on three equity areas; equity in meaningful access, equity in meaningful participation and equity in meaningful learning outcomes. In order to strengthen education system at specified areas of equity, the framework identified 8 dimensions of inequity such as; gender, socio-economic status, geographic location, health and nutritional status, disabilities, caste and ethnicity, language and children from vulnerable groups. Due to the socio-cultural defined roles and perceptions towards girls, inequalities in education exist in term of meaningful access, meaningful participation and meaningful learning outcomes and it also said that schools explicitly and implicitly reinforce social and cultural norms and perceptions (MoE, 2014). Hence, despite the entering in school Dalit girls are reinforcing their understanding that until or unless girls have to have marriage and they have to do all gender stereotype roles.
Likewise, SDG 4 and 5 directly linked with quality education and girl’s empowerment. SDG 4 is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all and SDG 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Similarly, the SSDP 2016-2023 also aligned with the SDG 4. The major target of goal 4 is by 2030; ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes (UNESCO, 2015).
Despite the national/international commitment school education is not able to retain to all Dalit girls in school and to empower them for decision making process related on their life. In Nepal 56.7% girls with primary education and 22.9% of girls with secondary education are married by the age of 18. Plan International reveals that if the current rates of early marriage continue, globally more than 140 million girls will become child brides by 2020 (Plan International, 2013).
Despite entering in secondary level education early marriage performing all over the Nepal however, it has mostly occurred in mid/far western part of Nepal and especially by Dalit girls. Although, schools has not been playing crucial role to change their perception towards women’s future roles as wives and mothers. Even, teachers make comments to older girls such as “you are very dull, why you can’t just get married? Look at her body like a mother (Chisamya, Dejaeghre, Kendall and Khan, 2012). That means school teachers degrading their status as students.
Throughout my personal and professional experience I fell that Dalit girls’ perception and understanding towards pursuing higher education is constructed by social norms and values and school is not playing effective role to internalize the importance of education and to courage them to complete secondary level education. From childhood, we are socialized to believe that marriage is a key milestone in our lives. Girls are expected to make marriage is their central goal and trained to become good wives and daughters-in-law (Nirantar Trust, 2014). I explicitly remember that when I attempted to live my childhood with full of joy and without concerning social norms, community members and even my school teachers used to say tero kam chhaina, kati uttauli vaki ? talai kasaile bihe gardaina. Likewise, in home, when I did any mistake my grandparents also used to say that bihe garera yeslai pathaidinu parchha ani taha lagxe. Therefore, I also gradually started to reinforce marriage is our ultimate goal of life and society has different expectations and gender stereotype roles for girls than boys and we have to perform accordingly.
Marriage is typically a barrier to education, since women are often expected to leave school in order to devote their time to the care of new home and to focus on gender stereotype roles (Jensen & Thornton, 2003). So that, it is a big challenge to achieve SSDP’s target that retain all children in school. Education is the main avenue to make self- dependent and dignified life of girls. However, higher education is the distant dream for Dalit married girls. Married girls are 11 times more likely to be out of school compared to their unmarried peers and early marriage is second most common reason for school drop-out of girls aged 15-17 (SSDP, 2016). Hence, I choose this issue for the deeper study of schooling of Dalit girl’s from the critical feminist approach who believes gender equality for all without any discriminations.
Rational of the study
There are several studies have been done on early marriage however, I found dearth of literature on the issue of dalit girl’s gendering in school and their understanding on gender stereotype roles. There is need to study how gender is constructed in school and despite entering in school why Dalit girls are getting marriage on their early age? What is lacking in our education system that is not empowering Dalit girls the way they should be empowered to stand against the social pressure and to enhance their decision making capacity.
We have the assumption that school enrollment for girls can promote girl’s empowerment and prevent early marriage. However, the girls are not fully empowering through the school education. There are several gaps between enrolling in school and empowering girls. Such as; gendering in school, reinforcing gender stereotypes roles in school, using gender biased language and having different expectations with girls and boys students. Hence, somehow schools are reinforcing gender inequality and disempowering girls (Chisamya et al, 2012). Thus, despite the having secondary level of education girls are getting marriage on their early age and schools are not able to internalize them about the importance of education. In this regard, to explore the understanding and perception of Dalit girl’s on child marriage, qualitative research is required and the findings of the study can bring out the experiences which dalit girls have in their school.
Purpose
To explore the understanding and emergence of child marriage among Dalit girls in Birendranagar Surkhet.
Research Question
i) How do Dalit girls narrate their own experience of child marriage?
ii) How is their understanding of child marriage emerged?
Significance of the study
Believing that education is an avenue for Dalit girls to make them empowered, independent and capable, I plan to understand the perceptions and experiences of Dalit girl’s and will also explore how the schools are shaping their understanding and experiences on child marriage in secondary level education. This qualitative study will help to understand the experiences of Dalit girls in community school and it will also provide the in-depth knowledge about the perception and understanding of these girls on child marriage. In addition, it will help to see the Dalit girl’s empowerment situation and decision making capacity to fight against existing malpractices.
Likewise, this study will equally benefit to the SDG 4 and 5 because these goals are more focused to ensure inclusive quality education for all and to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. In this regard, the study will focus the girl’s disempowerment and reasons of early marriage. Thus, from the findings they will get benefit who are implementing girl’s empowerment program in community schools. Likewise, this study will really provide guidance and in-depth insight to community schools for further improvement of education system and to empower all girls. In addition, I hope this study may be useful for province no 6 to make their strategy in order to achieve the goal of SDGs, SSDP and consolidated equity strategy.