Hindu

Child Brides Find Help From Hindu Priests
One of many child brides posing in a wedding dress.

Child brides face many more health issues than if they wait to get married.

Child brides may not be a huge problem in Canada, but the problem itself is huge. The International Center for Research on Women estimates that one-third of girls are married before the age of 18. The countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in Africa and South Asia. In Niger, 75 percent of girls are married before the age of 18. The ICRW lists the top 20 countries in the world with the highest rates of child brides.

The Problems Associated With Child Brides

  • Young girls who marry before the age of 18 do not get educated as well as girls who wait to marry.
  • These young girls may not have access to healthcare and other services they require to grow and mature.
  • Girls who marry under the age of 18 are more likely to live in poverty.
  • Child brides have a higher risk of HIV and other STDs.
  • Child brides die at a higher rate from pregnancy than women who are older when they marry.
  • Younger brides are more likely to experience domestic violence than the women who marry later in life. In India, the risk of domestic violence for girls under 18 is twice that of women who wait.

Changing Child Marriage

Although many people outside of the regions associate child marriage with Islam, it’s simply a myth that only one religion is affiliated with child brides. Many religions actively participate in the tradition. It is more common in rural areas than urban, and many times girls do not have a say in the matter. One day, they’re playing with friends and helping mom cook dinner. The next day, they’re shipped off to their husband. The bride and groom may not even meet before the wedding.

In Nepal, it’s estimated that about 41 percent of girls are married before turning 18. Some activist groups place the number even higher, at 50 percent. Families even lie about a girl’s age to get around the law. Nepal has banned child marriage for 54 years. Girls are supposed to be at least 20 before getting married. However, it is difficult to enforce the law. Nepal is trying to end the practice by 2030. The country is working with the U.N. and other agencies to implement plans to stop the practice.

Fortunately, Nepali Hindi priests are beginning to advocate against child marriage. When a girl is born, she receives a special scroll that can be used to tell her fortune. Even if a family lies about her age to the priest who is marrying her, the scroll gives her real age. Priests are using their place in the community to educate families about child marriages. Although the number of people convinced to wait is small, these priests continue to work. It may take another generation to turn the tide of child brides in Nepal, but they are doing something today.

What Can You Do?

You may not have the influence to stop child marriages in places such as Nepal, Madagascar or Zambia, but you can certainly support the efforts of those who are working to change the tradition. ICRW is just one activist organization trying to change the tide. UNICEF is another excellent organization that promotes gender equality and education around the world. At Girlsnotbrides.org, you can find even more ways to act and raise your voice in the fight against child marriages.

There isn’t an easy solution to change when it’s embedded in the culture. It’s going to take everyone working together to empower girls and enact new laws designed to support the rights of all children in these countries. Girlsnotbrides.org works with more than 600 groups around the world to help change behaviors and attitudes associated with child marriage. Learn more about what you can do.

Spring Celebrations Around the World
Spring Time Celebrations

Spring Time Celebrations

If you’re ready for asparagus, morels and fresh spring lettuce, you’re not alone. It has a been a long winter. Shubenacadie Sam and Wiarton Willie, famous weather forecasters from Groundhog Day, were no help in deciding whether winter would continue or not in the north, splitting the vote. Punxsutawney Phil sides with Sam in predicting an early spring. March 21 marks the spring equinox, and it’s hoped that the flowers will be in bloom soon after. Even if they aren’t, find a celebration of spring and enjoy this time of renewal.

Thailand Water Festival

In Thailand, in mid-April, come for the Songkran Water festival. It’s a huge public water fight held in honor of the new year. The water represents the cleansing of negative influences. It might be summer in the southern hemisphere, but you can still think of it being spring. Come for the festival and hope that the flowers will be in full bloom when you return.

Japan Shunbun no Hi

The spring equinox is a national holiday in Japan. They actually celebrate three days before and three days after, but the actual day when the equinox occurs is a day to honor nature and show affection for living things. Part of the Japanese tradition of Shunbun no Hi is to visit their ancestral graves and clean them up. People leave flowers and incense on the graves, then go visit with other family members as part of their spring festivity. They also clean their home and start new activities to renew their life. Farmers pray for luck for the upcoming growing season.

Granny March

In Bulgaria, Granny March or Baba Marta marks the arrival of spring. Legend says that the final snow of winter is just when Baba Marta is in the midst of spring cleaning and is shaking out her feather bed. Beginning on March 1, people give martenitsi, a red and white figure which can almost resemble a tassel, to wear until the first signs of spring appear. Once the trees begin to bloom, the martenitsis are tied to the branches in honor of the season.

The Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival

If you can’t wait until May for Tulip festival in Ottawa, take a trip south to Washington D.C. for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. It begins March 20 and runs through April 17 in the capital of the United States. Much like the tulips are a sign of friendship between Canada and the Netherlands, the cherry blossoms celebrate the ties of the U.S. to Japan. It’s spring and the flowers are in bloom. What better reason could you need for a break from all the snow?

Hindu Holi Celebration

In Southeast Asia, the festival of Holi is also called the Festival of Colors. Legends tell two different tales of why the tradition of throwing powdered pigments at each other got started, but the main idea is that good conquers evil. In one story, Holika attempted to burn her nephew, Prahlad in a bonfire, but he was saved by Lord Vishnu in a strange turn of events. In remembrance, Hindus light bonfires and celebrate Prahlad’s victory. Much of festival is fun, but it also has spiritual significance. It’s a time to renew friendships and forgive those who have hurt you in the past year.

Celebrate Renewal

It doesn’t matter when the first buds of spring occur, it’s just a given that the season will change and the earth will come alive. Enjoy the festivals of spring and remember that you’re given new opportunities to make your life all you want. Take time this year to think about the changes you need to make to make your dreams come true.