Empowering youth to challenge early marriage

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A nation against early marriage

posted Nov 27, 2013 by Rati Bishnoi


A video van run was launched by youth as part of community mobilization activity on Aug 29, 2013 in Ranchi, on Sept 6 in Hazaribagh and on September 14, 2013 in Gaya. A video van travels through a predetermined route plan and schedule covering upto 4 locations on a daily basis and disseminates information on early marriage. Common tools like games and quizzes are used to attract audiences and build awareness and ensure maximum participation and interaction with audiences.

The Panchayat Raj Institutions and communities in both districts were informed about the Video Van through a travelling public announcement system that gave information on the show, venue, time, methodology to be followed and the route. Breakthrough was able to leverage support from the local administration for the smooth and orderly running of the van. The details of the video van run are given below:

Locations Covered & Participants Ranchi Hazaribagh Gaya
Gram Panchayat Covered 22 7 22
Villages Covered 23 15 40
Distance covered 800 304 1040
Audience Participation 17875 10,110 40,340
Number of Theatre show per day 3 3 3

To ensure community participation during the van run, especially adolescent boys and girls, community mobilization activities like game shows and quizzes were organized as an engagement mechanism. A show of ‘Chanda Pukare’ was performed for the audience followed by screening of the PSAs on early marriage to stimulate discussion in the audience and feedback collected. A pre and post survey of the video van run and activities is conducted to understand

The video van run has had active participation from community members, Panchayat Raj Institution members, Gram Panchayat leaders and members, youth and adolescent girls and boys. Some of the activities conducted during the video van movement have been wall painting in which participants were encouraged to paint their perception of what early marriage represents. A few varieties of merchandise related to the campaign have been developed like clock, diary, pens, combs, mirror which was distributed to the audience and also as prize/incentive for a competition.

The video van has received positive feedback from the community who lauded Breakthrough’s efforts to create awareness on the adverse effects of early marriage on young girls. The youth, especially young girls could identify with the problem and asked for the community to take a stand against it. There is an increasing demand from Panchayat Raj Institution members as well as the community for continuing the activity in their gram panchayats, villages and surrounding locations. We have had to conduct additional shows of the play at night.

Risks & challenges

Evening shows during the video van runs are more effective as they can draw a large audience. However, women’s security is a challenge at night since there are a number of anti-social elements due to high prevalence of alcoholism. We use mitigation measures like involving local communities to take ownership of the activity and participate in full force. Local participation is also key to the success of the video van movement as they in turn mobilise their fellow community members.

Evening shows during the video van runs are more effective as they can draw a large audience. However, women’s security is a challenge at night since there are a number of anti-social elements due to high prevalence of alcoholism.

We use mitigation measures like involving local communities to take ownership of the activity and participate in full force. Local participation is also key to the success of the video van movement as they in turn mobilise their fellow community members.

Another challenge is that Jharkhand is affected by insurgency and community members may be part of the insurgent groups. Past incidences from partner organizations on the ground have suggested threat to life. Therefore it becomes critical to keep transparency at all levels with respect to the program, human resource and funding. This also means that one needs to have additional mitigation strategy for safety and security of our field level staff.

Get personal

Asha Devi, a native of Jharkhand state calls in and speaks out against early marriage. This is because she was married off early too. She cites her life as an example against the phenomenon of early marriage:

Next steps

  • Creating youth leadership development
  • Dissemination plan for mass media products
  • Ramp up the video van (community mobilization) movement
  • Take the early marriage project to other Indian states.

More information

Breakthrough has launched a campaign on early marriage and is using its proven 360-degree multi-media strategy including integration of media, leadership trainings and community mobilisation activities for the project in Gaya district of Bihar and Ranchi and Hazaribagh districts of Jharkhand. The nation wide media campaign “Nation against Early Marriage” was launched on August 29, 2013 in Ranchi by Smt. Annapurna Devi, Hon'ble Minister of Social Welfare, Women & Child Development, Government of Jharkhand in the presence of Chairperson, State Commission for Women, Director, NRHM, Principal Secretary, WCD, Jharkhand, Breakthrough staff other dignitaries and media.

We have created a number of eye catching flyers, booklets and other easy to use merchandise for mass distribution in the community. The mid-media products reflect the messaging and are aimed at reinforcing mass media messages at the community level on the issue of early marriage. Hoardings and wall paintings were put up during the community mobilization activities for message reinforcement and to create an awareness of the campaign.

Breakthrough has partnered with Graamvaani for the campaign and is one of our first forays into the mobile radio segment. Graamvaani uses mobile phone powered radios to disseminate social messages and engage listeners with interesting and interactive programs. In the first month, the programme featuring early marriage has had more than 8400 listeners calling in from 14 districts of Jharkhand and also from towns in Delhi, Gujarat and UP.

Further reading

  • Child brides
  • Education & training
  • Reproductive rights

Changing the social climate to one that rejects early marriage through training youth.

Why we care: Early marriage is a complex issue with many dimensions.

How we're solving this: Using media campaigns, community mobilisation and leadership development to change individual hearts and minds and usher in a culture of human rights.

Breakthrough seeks to train young people, including men and boys, to address the underlying challenges of violation of women’s and girls’ rights by highlighting the impact of an early marriage on the lives of girls and women.

Trained Rights Advocates take the messages down to the community through intensive mobilization activities using pop culture, local art forms and Breakthrough’s media products.

Using our successful and practiced methodology and approach, Breakthrough is piloting a new campaign on early marriage and sexual and reproductive health rights in three districts of Bihar and Jharkhand. The demographics in these areas are high in cases of early marriage and other related issues. Breakthrough will be launching the campaign in early 2013. This project is a two year project.

Breakthrough uses media campaigns, community mobilisation and leadership development to change individual hearts and minds and usher in a culture of human rights. The Breakthrough model assumes that social and behavior change is possible if there is dialogue at all levels and between all stakeholders in a community. In areas where the Bell Bajao!! campaign has been effective and community-based and government organizations were engaged, this change was recorded.  The most significant change technique used to track behavior change has captured individual and collective action, both in resistance to violence and non-acceptance of violence with a special focus on recording action taken by women.

Early marriage is a complex issue with many dimensions, and it requires a broad-based approach to combat this problem.  Holistic engagement – through both media and community mobilization – helps to build a critical mass of individuals and groups who will no longer tolerate such actions.  While it may be impossible to reach and convince everyone in a community, if enough people support the issue, the social climate can gradually shift from one which tolerates to one that rejects early marriage. 

Breakthrough’s objectives in this project will be :

  • Creating attractive, multi-media community mobilization ideas that young people can use to help disseminate the same among the larger communities in these areas.
  • Breakthrough’s Rights Advocates Program brings together the strength of multi-media tools with community-based education and mobilization, which deepens the impact of our multimedia campaigns. The multi-media products are largely targeted for the youth and some of our innovative mid-media activities like the video van have been developed to engage youth to provide them with a platform where they can engage communities on sensitive topics like HIV, sexuality, gender based violence and caste discrimination in a non-threatening way and yet have an impact. In working with the community, our current campaign on stopping domestic violence has capitalized on the influence and popularity of local and cultural art forms like street plays, puppet shows and theatrical dance performances like Yakshagana in South India. A dance form, traditionally used by men to tell stories of Indian mythology, was adapted by a Rights Advocate to tell the story of domestic violence. And she was a girl – Karnataka’s first-ever female Yakshagana group was started by Mallika, a Breakthrough Rights Advocate.

The scripts were gender sensitized and tailored to challenge prevalent norms of patriarchy, gender stereotypes of masculinity and the social issue of domestic violence. These local art forms when used in conjunction with the video vans that enter grassroots communities as well as commercial centers to disseminate information via Rights Advocates, Youth Community Leaders trained by Breakthrough, who entertain and educate the crowd with audio-visual displays, performances and discussions, creates ripples of change in the community.


Community mobilisation activities by youth leaders:

Community mobilization activities with the help of Breakthrough trained/sensitized participants: Through specific community mobilization activities, the youth whose capacities have been built, will take leadership in preventing early marriage by creating a strong public opinion on the issue, and by supporting and encouraging responsible behavior and actions among their own peer groups through informed choices. The youth will encourage responsible, rights-based and gender-sensitive decision making within their communities by:

  • Video van activity by youth to create awareness in the community about the issue of early marriage and mobilize social support in favor of girls’ education, equal treatment, and opportunities. The video vans will be mobilized to complement ground-level community awareness-building and other outreach efforts to confront the issue of early marriage
  • Organizing and conducting interactive outreach activities such as youth festivals, theater, rallies, music and dance performances, among other activies, to address the issue of early marriage in a non-threatening and positive way enabling people to have a public platform where they can voice their opinions and take informed choices.
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