The Odisha government has declared Ganjam as the first district in the state to be free of child marriages. Nearly 450 child marriages have been stopped by the district administration and video-recorded 48,383 marriages in the years 2020 and 2021.
"Child marriage impedes women's development. In 2019, we decided to stop child marriages on mission mode and generate general awareness against the menace," Vijay Amruta Kulange, Ganjam District Magistrate, told The Hindu.
"After verification, the Ganjam administration declared the district child marriage free. Sarpanchs and task force committee members had sent recommendations that no child marriage had occurred in their respective areas," Kulange added.
Counselling Adolescent Girls About Child Marriage
The DM further said that the district had started a programme called Nirbhaya Kadhi (Fearless bud) in 2019. The campaign helped prevent adolescent girls from dropping out of school, and counselling them. Anganwadi workers and accredited social health activists (ASHA) organised meetings of teenage girls at the village level every month to make them aware of the ill consequences of child marriage. All the heads of the educational institutes were directed to inform the authorities if any girl aged between 12 and 18 remained absent from school for five consecutive days.
"We followed up with the teachers and other grassroots level workers," Kulange said. Around 1 lakh youth have undergone counselling in the last two years.
The district administration has also made production of the Aadhaar card mandatory for any marriages to happen.
Kulange also said that the government has announced ₹50,000 for people who inform them about any child marriage happening in their area. Previously, the reward money used to be ₹5,000."