Breakthrough trains youth to address the underlying causes of early marriage.

Why we care:  Early marriage is a complex issue with many dimensions, and it requires a broad-based approach to combat this problem.

How we’re solving this: Helping youth become leaders and advocates

A shy young man from a middle class background stays away from social interactions and does not engage with issues of any kind. His experience of change within himself was followed swiftly by his experience of himself as catalysing change for others.

Anuj belongs to a middle class family. He has a post-graduate degree in population studies and rural development and an “O” level computer certificate. He started working soon after completing his studies. His elder brother and sister are also studying as well as working part time to sustain the family financially.

Anuj explains that he has always been a shy person. He would hesitate to talk to people and was unable to hold or initiate a conversation with any degree of comfort. In September 2007, he heard about Breakthrough training in his college. Initially he was not comfortable about taking part but he was encouraged by his friend and his brothers to participate.

On the first day of training, Anuj was quiet and introverted but on the second day he changed; suddenly he opened up and confidently participated in all the activities.

He speaks of how he has started analyzing social norms from a different perspective. He is more confident dealing with issues and expressing his opinion on various things. With the urge to make a difference becoming stronger in him, he even went to the neighbouring villages and spread awareness about superstitions related to untouchables, the caste system and other such problems that are a part of the fabric of life in many such areas.

He has started working for Breakthrough as a volunteer. He manages this with his day job. He is particularly interested in working on issues like domestic violence as he has come across many cases of domestic violence and now helps those affected or vulnerable to deal with their situation. His sense of pride and agency is increasing with every experience of catalyzing change.

Anuj’s story shows that there is often a finely nuanced impact of interventions such as the Breakthrough trainings. For Anuj, there was at a point where a small but critical shift in personal capacity cleared the way for determined and sustained action with the aim of contributing towards social change.

Breakthrough seeks to train young people, including men and boys like Anuj, 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.

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 BT 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 building and strengthening the awareness of young people through leadership trainings around implications of early marriage. 

Conduct capacity building workshops and training sessions with youth from NGOs

Breakthrough combines its mainstream communication and messaging strategy with leadership facilitation. It trains youth from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities to convey knowledge, share ideas and to reshape individual and community attitudes.  The more intensive work done on the ground brings in new partners and gives depth to the media messages. Breakthrough’s advocacy training program will strengthen the ability of youth to become effective change agents in their own domains and enable individuals to act as advocates who will create awareness on the negative factors of early marriage and advocate for a better status for girls and women.

Breakthrough will work closely with local stakeholders such as civil society groups and non-profits and other groups with extensive knowledge of local culture, and who are well-known and trusted by the community to identify youth who can be Rights Advocates.  Participant trainees will be equipped to reach out to a larger section of the community to foster dialogue and discussion around the issue of early marriage and the factors that influence it. 

Breakthrough will regularly monitor the workshops and conduct follow-up sessions to upgrade participant skills and knowledge based on their experience and feedback from the field. This will also allow us to form a core group who deal with the issue around early marriage going forward.