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A Supporting Role: Advocating for the Education She Did Not Have

Apr 25, 2022

Binita married her husband at age 16. She then dropped out of school and was expected to focus on being a good housewife and daughter-in-law. Now, at 18 years old and a mother herself, she’s helping to write a different life story for her 18-year-old sister-in-law. Binita is openly advocating for Suniti’s education and delaying her marriage. Even 18, Binita argues, is too young to become a bride.

Education Cast Aside

For many young girls like Binita, education is no longer an option after an early marriage. Expectations of having children, managing the household, and taking care of extended family take precedent. Generations of patriarchal and religious barriers, plus significant economic barriers, stand in the way of young, married girls attaining an education or pursuing careers.

“There were other two members in my [husband’s] family… who were perusing their studies,” shared Binita. “So I never felt comfortable to speak on the continuation of my education, thinking about the financial burden over them.”

Without education, without independent careers, and often with children shortly after marriage – young brides are extraordinarily dependent upon the families they marry into. These girls have few options and very little control over their own lives.

In Nepal and around the world, Population Media Center’s transformative radio, television, and web series are uplifting those most affected by harmful social norms, like child marriage and barriers to female education. Our audiences get the information and inspiration they need to change their lives, pursue their dreams, and inspire exponential community progress.

Stronger Together with Stories

Nepali girls sitting together on the ground smiling at each other.

Over the years, Binita has grown particularly close with her sister-in-law Suniti, one of the family members who has continued with an education and spends four hours commuting to school every day. Binita often accompanies Suniti on the long journey, and together they listen to Rope Guna Fal (“You Reap What You Sow”), a radio show produced by PMC-Nepal. Acting together with the Antenna Foundation Nepal, UNICEF, Viamo, and the Kaneda Foundation, Rope Guna Fal was designed to educate and inform on child marriage, pre- and post-natal care, and reproductive health – topics particularly relevant to Binita and her sister-in-law.

“During my pregnancy period, Rope Guna Fal has been supportive of taking care of myself and my newborn. I had learned about nutritious food to intake during this time and the ways to handle pregnancy situations. The program also informed us…to visit a health provider and other health activities to be carried out during pregnancy,” said Binita.

Like all PMC stories, Rope Guna Fal features relatable characters facing very real choices and familiar scenarios. For Binita, she relates to the character Rama because of how this fictional young bride is navigating her pregnancy and an intense and sometimes difficult relationship with the demands of her in-laws. From Rama, Binita is learning new ways to carefully handle challenges in her family and how to approach tough subjects.

Every Action Counts

Two woman stand facing a microphone between them reading lines off of a paper

When Binita first heard that her in-laws were planning to arrange an early marriage for Suniti, Binita knew she had to find a way to intervene. She drew courage from Rama’s character, the early marriage storylines in Rope Guna Fal, and her own life experience to speak up on behalf of her sister-in-law.

For Suniti, Binita has dramatically impacted the course of her life. Binita’s in-laws reconsidered their decision for their daughter. Together, the whole family decided that Suniti would not get married until she was 22 years old, giving her the time and space to continue her education and find a career path.

“It was easy for me to communicate and convince my family, but still there are many girls in my community who hesitate to open up and speak up for their rights,” stated Binita.

According to research by Girls Not Brides, 40% of Nepalese girls are married before they turn 18. The Nepalese Government has committed to eliminating child marriage by 2030 as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. PMC-Nepal has been addressing child marriage and other related social issues in radio shows since 2016. From our radio shows, we’ve seen individuals and whole communities start dialogues and take action to rewrite deeply entrenched social norms. People like Binita are stopping child marriages and elevating girls’ education.